Interfax-Russia.ru – The Czech Republic has frozen Russian real estate in its country and proposes to limit the possibility of moving diplomats from the Russian Federation. Moscow promised retaliatory steps regarding Czech property assets.
The EU states are discussing the Czech Republic’s proposal to limit the possibility of Russian diplomats moving across the EU. According to the Financial Times, Prague wants Russian diplomats to receive visas and residence permits that allow movement only within the host country, and not throughout the Schengen area.
The publication notes that Prague is most concerned about the issue related to Russian officials who received Austrian visas to work at UN agencies in Vienna. Thanks to these visas, officials can then travel from Austria to the Czech Republic or other countries.
In addition, the Czech Republic proposed accepting only biometric passports. The European Commission sent the Czech side’s proposals to European capitals last week.
The Czech proposals were put forward as part of the negotiations on the 12th package of EU sanctions against Russia. However, the FT said, “the debate is at an early stage and the complex legal issues surrounding the proposal mean any changes are unlikely to feature in the package currently being discussed.”
At the same time, last week the Czech government added Roszagranproperty, a Russian company that manages Russian assets abroad, to the national sanctions list.
“All commercial activities of this company, including rent, are now illegal,” said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, as quoted by Czech Radio.
He explained that adding to the sanctions list means freezing all assets that the company owns or otherwise controls in the Czech Republic. For its part, the radio noted that the company manages many real estate properties in the Czech Republic, which are the property of the Russian Federation.
Earlier, the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry clarified that Russia owns 42 units of real estate in the Czech Republic, which it previously identified as objects used for diplomatic purposes. However, during the inspection, the ministry found that many of them do not serve their stated purposes.
In mid-May, the Czech government repealed nine 1970-80 regulations that gave the USSR the right to free use of land for diplomatic purposes.
In total we are talking about 59 land plots with a total area of 49 thousand 271 square meters. m, in particular, about a complex of apartment buildings in Prague, about the Orthodox Church of the Holy Martyr Ludmila, which is considered the main temple of the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic, as well as about the sites on which the buildings of the Russian consulates stand in the cities of Karlovy Vary and Brno. They, according to Czech media, lost their consular status in May last year.
Prague announced that it will now demand payment from Moscow for land plots on which some Russian diplomatic institutions and facilities owned by Russia in the Czech Republic are located. According to the Czech authorities, since Russia is using this land for other purposes, there is no reason to continue to provide it to the Russian side free of charge.
The Russian Embassy in Prague then stated that they did not agree with the allegations about the allegedly unlawful use of Russian real estate in the Czech Republic.
“The issue of using Russian real estate in the Czech Republic and Czech real estate in Russia is mutual and complex in nature, and has been the subject of professional dialogue for a number of years in the format of specialized bilateral expert consultations. The Russian side proposed holding their next round back in January of this year. Prague’s reactions this proposal has not yet been responded to,” the Russian embassy noted.
The diplomatic mission advised to “refrain from politicization and medialization of this area of our relations, returning to the proven negotiation process.”
For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry then drew attention to the fact that “the Czech authorities’ demand for rent, and even retroactively, resembles extortion at the state level and violates the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.”
On Smolenskaya Square they recalled that they had repeatedly offered to conduct expert consultations on real estate issues, during which they had previously been able to solve emerging problems.
“The Czech side chose to forget about this. Civilized dialogue is not in honor in Prague now,” the Russian Foreign Ministry added.
The ministry noted that the topic of real estate in bilateral relations between countries is “long-standing and double-edged.”
“We are confident that its instrumentalization for political purposes is not in the interests of Prague, but the current Czech authorities, in the heat of Russophobia, do not seem to understand this. We will take protective measures, including using legal mechanisms,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
In turn, Prague’s inclusion of the FSUE “Goszagranprosperty” in the so-called national sanctions list was called by the ministry “another anti-Russian step, confirming the persistent intention to go in line with confrontation with our country.”
“In the Czech Republic, which has property assets in Russia, they must understand that such an act will not go unanswered. To protect its legitimate interests, Russia will take all necessary actions, including on the legal plane,” noted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
According to her, Prague presents as an achievement the fact that it was the first to resort to such measures in relation to Russian property.
“However, primacy in such unseemly matters is a dubious honor and will undoubtedly result in damage for the initiators of such a campaign,” added the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Last weekend, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that a protest had already been lodged against the Charge d’Affaires of the Czech Republic in the Russian Federation, Jiří Chistecký, in connection with the inclusion of the FSUE Goszagranobstvo in the Czech Republic on the sanctions list.
“The inadmissibility of such legal arbitrariness is strictly indicated,” they said on Smolenskaya Square.
They emphasized that in order to protect their legitimate interests, “the Russian side will use all means, including taking retaliatory steps in relation to Czech property assets in Russia.”
The Kremlin also called the Czech Republic’s decision to freeze Russian state property illegal from the point of view of international law.
“The deeply anti-Russian position of the Czech authorities, of course, causes absolute bewilderment; we categorically reject such a position and do not accept it,” Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
According to him, Moscow will analyze the current situation: “We need to analyze what the Czechs have here and so on. Of course, if unfriendly steps are formalized, of course, a possible response will be given.”