Russian embassy in Prague
© REUTERS / David W Cerny
The Czech government has expelled two Russian diplomats for allegedly tricking the country's special services with a fake poisoning plot. The Russian embassy branded the accusations as a "provocation."

The decision to expel the Russian diplomats in Prague was announced by Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek at a joint media conference on Friday.

The prime minister said the high-profile media scandal over an alleged Kremlin plot to kill the mayor of Prague and two municipal officials with ricin poison was actually a ruse. The tip-off about the planned assassination came from a Russian diplomat who wanted to settle a personal score with his rival, Babis explained.

The Russian embassy rejected the reasoning provided by the Czech government, saying the entire scandal was a "fabricated provocation." The expulsion of the diplomats was "an unfriendly step" that signals that Prague has no intention to mend the damaged ties, the embassy said on its Facebook page, expressing its disappointment in the outcome.

The Czech FM said he expected Moscow to ban two Czech diplomats in a tit-for-tat, a prediction that was swiftly confirmed to the media by the Russian side.

The PM said the entire scandal had put "unnecessary workload on our security forces" and created yet another complication in relations between his country and Russia.

The "Prague ricin poisoning plot" became public in late April after Czech media reported that national police was providing personal security to Mayor Zdenek Hrib and two municipal heads. All three officials had been previously involved in actions publicly criticized by the Russian government.

The mayor renamed the square in which the Russian embassy is located after slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. The two other officials were behind the decision to dismantle a monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev, who is credited for liberating Prague from the Nazi forces during World War II.

The Czech media's scary "spy story" alleged that there was a Russian diplomat who delivered ricin poison in his briefcase to the country - with the purpose of murdering the officials. The tip-off about the plot came to the Czech intelligence service from a friendly foreign agency, the media also reported. Despite there being no evidence to prove the reports, the story swiftly made headlines and spread across Twitter.


However, the state authorities conceded in mid-May that they had found no proof there actually was any assassination plot. Moscow dismissed the reports as a hoax.