The Czech Prime Minister blames the failed arson attempt on Russia


Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has said that the failed arson attack that took place in Prague last week was “very likely” organized and financed by Russia.

Speaking after a meeting of the Czech National Security Council, Mr Fiala said the failed attack was apparently part of a “hybrid” sabotage campaign being waged by Moscow against European countries.

Police said a foreign citizen was arrested on Saturday in connection with the incident and is being held in custody on terrorism charges.

He was described as “a Spanish-speaking man originally from South America” ​​and had apparently been in the country for five days.

The prime minister said the attempt to set fire to buses at a Prague depot was likely linked to a wave of arson attacks in Europe, which he said appeared to be orchestrated by Moscow.

These, he said, included May’s arson in Warsaw and a similar attack at an Ikea branch in Lithuania, which authorities believe was carried out by Russian intelligence agents or their accomplices.

“The connection (with Russia) is not only possible, but very likely,” Fiala told reporters. “The attack was probably organized and financed from Russia.”

The BBC has approached the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment on Fiala’s allegations.

Police stepped up patrols in the Czech capital last Friday after claims of an increased security risk.

They released CCTV footage showing a dark-haired man paying for items in a shop or petrol station. They said the man was possibly dangerous and should not be approached, but provided no further information.

Police President Martin Vondrasek said the man was arrested the next day.

“On Friday we asked the public for help. The suspect was arrested on Saturday morning. A criminal prosecution was initiated on Sunday afternoon and today (Monday) a court ordered that he be taken into custody,” Vondrasek told journalists at a news briefing.

The man – described as a 26-year-old of South American descent – is accused of setting fire to buses at a public transport depot in Prague’s Klicov district in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Local media initially reported that he had spilled petrol on several buses at the depot, but failed to set them on fire.

However, a spokeswoman for the Prague Public Transport Authority was quoted by news outlet as saying that the man set fire to several buses and that the fires were then extinguished by depot staff. The fires caused an estimated 200,000 Czech crowns (£6,864; $8,738) in damage, she said.

He now faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted under the terrorism legislation, and 30 years if he receives an exemplary sentence.

Since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Czech government has become one of Ukraine’s most ardent supporters, providing military aid including artillery, tanks and ammunition.

However, the mutual antipathy predates the February 2022 invasion.

The government in Prague says Russia’s GRU intelligence service was behind the 2014 explosions at a Czech weapons depot that killed two people.

The Czech Republic was the second country – after the US – to be placed on Russia’s list of ‘unfriendly nations’ after a series of diplomatic expulsions following an investigation into the explosions.

Moscow denies any involvement in the incident.

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