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Tajikistan Says It Didn't Issue Passport Allegedly Used By Russian Agent Implicated In Czech Blast

The false passports of the alleged Russian agents.

DUSHANBE -- Tajik authorities say they didn't issue a passport that was allegedly used in 2014 by a Russian agent implicated in a deadly arms depot explosion in the Czech Republic.

Last weekend, the Czech government alleged that two people who entered the country as Russian citizens, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, used a Tajik passport issued to Ruslan Tabarov and a Moldovan passport issued to Nicolaj Popa to access an arms depot in the village of Vrbetice in 2014. The Czechs say the two are responsible for an explosion that occurred the same day they went to the depot, killing two people.

In a statement on April 23, Tajikistan's Interior Ministry said that it had never issued a passport to a person born in 1975 with the name Ruslan Tabarov.

The statement came three days after Moldova's Agency for State Services said that a Moldovan passport allegedly used by the other Russian agent implicated in the 2014 blast had been issued to a different person, but doctored to change the original name on the passport to Nicolaj Popa, born in 1979.

Czech authorities also allege that the two suspects were members of Russian military intelligence (GRU) and the same agents wanted for the poisoning attempt of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in 2018.

The faces on the passports -- identified as Ruslan Tabarov from Tajikistan and Nicolaj Popa from Moldova -- matched those of Petrov and Boshirov, who were captured on video in Britain.

The Bellingcat investigative group has identified Boshirov and Petrov as GRU operatives Anatoly Chepiga and Aleksandr Mishkin, respectively.

The results of the Czech investigation have led to a major diplomatic standoff between Prague and Moscow, including the mass expulsion of embassy staff from the missions of both countries.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service