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Czech President Calls Russia 'Silly' For List Of 'Unfriendly' States


Czech President Milos Zeman
Czech President Milos Zeman

Czech President Milos Zeman has called Russia silly for listing his country as an "unfriendly" state amid deteriorating ties over an intelligence dispute.

Relations have slumped since April when the Czech government accused Russian military intelligence agents of causing a 2014 blast at an ammunition depot that killed two people. The Czech Republic has expelled dozens of Russian employees at Moscow's embassy in Prague as spies.

Russia denies the allegations and has retaliated by expelling Czech diplomats. On May 14, it also listed the country as "unfriendly" along with the United States -- and it has threatened to apply the measure to other countries if they engage in "unfriendly actions."

The designation will bar the United States from hiring local personnel for its diplomatic missions in Russia, and limits the number of local hires by the Czech Republic to 19.

"It is always wrong to be an enemy," Zeman told the Czech radio station Frekvence 1 on May 16.

"It is silliness from the Russian side, because making enemies from former friends is a mistake," said Zeman, who has favored friendly ties with Russia for years. "If there cannot be friendship, then there should at least be correct relations."

Zeman's remarks came a day after the European Union said Russia's decision to categorize the United States and the Czech Republic as "unfriendly" was not justified.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on May 15 that the EU deplores allegations from Moscow of "unfriendly actions" perpetrated against Russia.

"We call on Russia to review its decision, to avoid a further deterioration of our relationship that is already under strain. The EU will continue to coordinate its position with its partners," he said.

"We express full solidarity with the Czech Republic, an EU member state, and the United States of America and call on Russia to fully respect the Vienna Convention," Borrell added.

Russia’s decision was also criticized by European Council President Charles Michel. On May 15, Michel called the Russian government's action "another escalatory step" that "undermines diplomatic relations."

With reporting by dpa and Reuters
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