Czech official denies reports of plans to exchange data on Vrbetice blasts for vaccines

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PRAGUE, May 4. /TASS/. Czech First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek has denied a media report about his plans to exchange information related to the Vrbetice ammunition depot blasts for the supplies of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine and intentions to visit Moscow in mid-April for that purpose.

A local online news outlet earlier claimed that Hamacek allegedly planned to visit Russia in order to sweep the scandal over the 2014 explosion under the rug in exchange for a batch of the Sputnik V jab and for Moscow’s consent to let Prague host a meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Joe Biden of the United States.

“I unequivocally deny the article’s speculations regarding my alleged intention to trade information about the Vrbetice scandal for Sputnik V supplies,” Hamacek wrote on Twitter. “The article is based on speculative assumptions and lies that no one can confirm,” he insisted.

Hamacek, who planned to visit Moscow on April 19, pointed out that since April 14, the Czech Interior Ministry had hosted a string of meetings involving top officials from Czech security agencies, the prosecutor general and the Czech ambassador to Moscow. The consequences of the Vrbetice incident for the Czech Republic’s national security and relations with Russia was the only focus of those meetings. “No one discussed the possibility of any exchanges with Russia. These rumors are harmful to the Czech Republic’s interests and play into the hand of another country,” Hamacek asserted.

The Czech authorities claim that Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, whom London accuses of attempting to assassinate the Skripals, had allegedly had a hand in the 2014 ammunition depot blasts in the eastern Czech village of Vrbetice. On April 17, Prague announced the expulsion of 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague, who, according to the Czech authorities, are “officers of Russia’s SVR and GRU intelligence agencies.” The Russian Foreign Ministry protested against the move and declared 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow personae non grata.