Czech president Miloš Zeman has said the country produced the Novichok nerve agent for testing but it was then destroyed.
Zeman, speaking on commercial broadcaster TV Barrandov, said he based his comments on the findings of the military intelligence. Their information suggested the type of nerve agent believed to have been used on a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter was produced at a Brno military research centre in November last year.
Zeman said a report from the civil intelligence agency disagreed with that finding but he favoured the military intelligence.
Russia in March suggested the Czech Republic was one of the countries where novichok could have been produced. The comments sparked denials from Czech ministers and the government. Zeman later ordered investigations into whether it could be true.
Russian diplomacy has seized upon words by Czech President Miloš Zeman on Thursday regarding the deadly nerve agent Novichok, taking issue with Great Britain and the claim that the nerve agent was only ever produced in the former Soviet Union. On Thursday, on TV Barrandov which regularly interviews the head of state, President Zeman said Czechia had produced the Novichok nerve agent in a small amount for testing but it was then destroyed.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were targeted in England and barely survived. Great Britain maintains that all of the evidence points to Moscow.
The spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova was quoted by the Russian media as saying “the fog was lifting”. She charged that "lies" by the May administration were "growing more apparent".
Nerve agents such as the poison Novichok are synthesized in the Czech Republic as part of anti-chemical defence program, the Czech Defence Ministry said in a statement issued on Friday. The maximum amount produced is several micrograms and the substance is destroyed immediately after testing, the ministry added.
The ministry also said that while substances such as Novichok were potentially poisonous chemicals, they were used for testing detection and defence capabilities and the training of the country’s anti-chemical unit. Such substances, it stressed, were synthesized under the strictest controls and security. It called the chance of extraction from special labs “zero”.
It is thought that between 50 to 100 grams of Novichok was used against the Skripals in the attack in Salisbury.
Czech President Miloš Zeman has come under fire from political opponents following an interview on TV Barrandov on Thursday in which he maintained, according to a military intelligence report, that a small amount of the deadly nerve agent Novichok was produced in the Czech Republic.
Novichok was used in a brazen attack on British soil against a former Russian double agent and his daughter earlier this year. Great Britain says the evidence points to Russia.
A second Czech civil intelligence report contradicted the findings and the president’s words but Zeman said he preferred the military version. Petr Gazdík, the head of the smallest party in the lower house, STAN, tweeted a tough response, suggesting that Mr Zeman could easily be considered an agent of Moscow. He said the president not only contradicted the country’s foreign ministry but also provided fuel for Russian media.
The president has been accused of being a vocal supporter of Russia and apologist for Mr Putin on numerous occasions in the past, including the recent election where a FEMEN woman activist stripped to the waist and declared the president was Mr Putin’s “slut”.
The head of the Civic Democrats, Petr Fiala echoed Mr Gazdík’s words, saying the president had hurt the country’s position and only fueled Russian propaganda.
Czech police have detained and charged three Czechs with human trafficking and other criminal offences. The trio, two males and one female, are suspected of having preyed on poor people in Most, North Bohemia, promising legal and well-paid employment in Great Britain, but allegedly brutalizing them upon their arrival in Manchester and taking away their passports.
The spokesman for the National Centre Against Organised Crime Jaroslav Ibehej said they were made to do numerous tasks. At least some of them were forced into prostitution and sex online.
All three of the suspects have been remanded in custody. Detectives charge that the three were involved in criminal activity between the years 2012 and 2017, and possibly longer. The trio brought at least 15 people to Great Britain, four of them women.
The ice hockey world championships begin in Denmark Friday. The Czech Republic will play in their first group game Saturday against Slovakia.
The Czechs are looking to end a five year medal drought. After winning the gold in 2010 and bronze medals in the following two years, the Czech have failed to make it into the last three.
Coach Josef Jandač arrived in Denmark with many injury problems and questions who will take to the ice.
Saturday should be sunny with daytime temperatures expected to reach highs of around 22 degrees Celsius.