Special mission of two Russian spies in the Czech Republic

Debris from the explosion of the ammunition depot in Vrbetice, Czech Republic, on May 3, 2021. VLADIMIR PRYCEK / CTK VIA AP

“This is the only time in my career that I have come home in the evening telling my wife: you were almost a widow today. “ Jiri Ovesny, 56, has been chief for twenty-five years of the small fire station of Valasske Klobouky, a town lost in the wooded hills of the eastern borders of the Czech Republic, but he will never forget this intervention of the 16 October 2014. On this day, this fine and calm man is called «At 9:49 am» for “A fire in the ammunition depot in Vrbetice”, 9 kilometers away.

Almost seven years later, the professional firefighter can still describe in detail ” the panic ” the guard who opened the gate of the complex of more than 300 hectares belonging to the Czech army to them, claiming that two employees were in “Warehouse number 16” in flames. “The absence of traces or human noise” came from inside the building when they arrived on site. And especially “These increasingly intensive sounds of ammunition explosion”, the exact nature of which the firefighters do not know, but which immediately worries them.

Jiří Ovesný, 56, has been chief of the small fire station in Valašské Klobouky for 25 years.

Jiří Ovesný, 56, has been chief of the small fire station in Valašské Klobouky for 25 years.

Jiří Ovesný, 56, has been chief of the small fire station in Valašské Klobouky for 25 years. JEAN-BAPTISTE CHASTAND / THE WORLD

“Faced with the danger, I made the decision to immediately evacuate the 60 firefighters present. A minute later, a gigantic explosion sounded. Our vehicle jumped forward. If we had stayed where we are, we would probably all have died ”, assures the captain. In the complex behind him, the foundations of the old warehouses that have gone up in smoke and the teetering carcass of their neighbors still bear witness to the violence of the explosions. Ammunition which was previously stored here only remains a few piles of debris: automatic weapon cartridges, shell shells, missile cases, with inscriptions in Russian and English … barely protected by the rusty and aging grid of this military complex that became, on April 17, the center of an incredible espionage affair, involving the Russian military intelligence directorate, the GRU.

That Saturday night, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis created a third explosion in this small town of 1,500 inhabitants which thought it had just turned the page with the departure, in September 2020, of the last deminers responsible for cleaning up the projected debris for miles around. At a press conference called urgently in Prague, he announced that he had obtained, the day before, “Irrefutable evidence” that this Russian service is behind the explosion that killed the two employees. The GRU would also very probably be behind a second explosion which occurred a few weeks later, in December 2014, and which blew up warehouse number 12, located a few kilometers away, in the same complex.

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