In the first six months of 2021, the Czech Republic spent $683 million on Russian defense products, a figure that exceeds imports from the last three years combined. Prague is now the biggest buyer from Russia’s military industry.
That’s according to Moscow daily Vedomosti, which analyzed the latest customs statistics.
The considerable growth in defense industry imports comes in the same year that the Czech Republic was placed by Moscow on its list of ‘unfriendly countries,’ alongside the US, after Prague expelled a large number of Russian diplomats. In April this year, Czech authorities accused Russian security forces of being behind explosions at ammunitions depots in Vrbetice in 2014 – a charge Moscow has firmly denied.
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The deteriorating relations don’t seem to have affected the international weapons trade, however. According to Vedomosti, the growth of supplies to Prague is not only because the local authorities want Russian products, but many other countries do too.
The Czech Republic is used as a transport base for reselling Russian military equipment to other countries that do not want to cooperate with Moscow directly, the paper says. Algeria ($603 million) and China ($488 million) ranked second and third among importers, bringing the overall total of Russia defense exports – including planes, weapons, and ammo – to $4.7 billion since the beginning of the year.
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Last month, Czech Ambassador to Moscow Vitezslav Pivonka was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry over demands from Prague that Russia pay €25.5 million ($30 million) in compensation over Vrbetice.
“Usually, those who act in this way – without a trial, and demand money with threats and insults – are called extortionists,” Maria Zakharova, the ministry’s spokeswoman, said.
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