© Sputnik
A monument to Soviet World War II commander, Ivan Konev, in Prague.
The Czech media has crafted a spy thriller, based on unnamed sources, that Russians were planning to poison officials behind the removal of a monument to Marshal Ivan Konev who freed Prague from the Nazis. Moscow says it's a hoax.

The report by Respekt magazine this weekend had a short and catchy title - 'A Man with Ricin' - more fitting for an action movie or a John le Carré novel than a respectable news article.

Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper claimed that three weeks ago, a diplomat from Russia landed at Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague. A car that had already been waiting for him outside swiftly delivered the man to the Russian Embassy in the Czech capital. All this time, the mysterious diplomat had a briefcase on him, in which he "was supposed to have the deadly poison ricin," the report said.

But the Czech security services somehow knew about the contents of the briefcase and responded by providing 24/7 protection for the country's officials for whom the poison was allegedly intended. According to Respekt, those facing "the wrath of Moscow" are Prague's District 6 head, Ondrej Kolar, who was behind the recent removal of the monument, and the city's mayor, Zdenek Hrib, who earlier decided to rename a square in front of the Russian Embassy after assassinated opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.

The outlet earlier addressed Kolar on the heightened security measures around him, but he refused to confirm the report. "I don't want to comment on what is happening around me," he said.

This whole story seems to be heavily inspired by the scandal surrounding double agent Sergei Skripal. In 2018, former spy Skripal and his daughter were allegedly poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury, UK. Britain immediately blamed Russia for the attack but, despite more than two years passing since the incident, has yet to present any convincing proof of Moscow's involvement.

When asked about the matter by journalists, the Kremlin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, made it clear that these escapades in the Czech media are hardly worth the attention.

"We're not aware of this investigation. We don't know who was investigating and what was investigated. It looks like another hoax."

Peskov also refused once again to comment on the removal of the monument to Konev in the Czech capital, saying only that "a lot of such statements have already been made" and they fully express Russia's stance.

Moscow earlier described the decision by the authorities in Prague as a "dark day" in the city's history and a deliberate stunt to damage Russian-Czech relations. Russian prosecutors have also launched a criminal case against the District 6 administration in accordance with a new law that makes destroying or damaging memorials to those who died protecting the country illegal.

Konev's statue was torn down in early April amid the coronavirus lockdown in Prague. Kolar joked that the bronze commander suffered this fate because "he didn't have a mask on."

The District 6 head was blasted online for choosing to act during the coronavirus outbreak so people couldn't come out and try to protect the monument.

"Marshal Konev, who liberated not only Prague but also [Nazi death camp] Auschwitz, fully deserved his place in Prague," Czech President Milos Zeman said in a recent interview, a sentiment shared by many citizens despite mixed attitudes to the country's Soviet past.