The Russian government has officially deemed the United States and the Czech Republic “unfriendly” states and announced that US diplomatic missions could no longer employ local staff while Czech missions could employ a maximum of 19.
Moscow first announced the ban on the US hiring local staff last month as part of its retaliation for a slew of new US sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2020 US presidential election and for involvement in the SolarWind hack of US federal agencies.
A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the United States has until 1 August to comply with the new requirements.
Relations between Russia and the Czechs were badly hit last month when the Czechs accused Russian military intelligence of being behind a 2014 blast at an ammunition depot, and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats.
Russia rejected the allegations and retaliated by expelling Czech diplomats, and also ordered the Czechs to dismiss the majority of their local employees in Moscow, many of whom have staffed a Czech hospitality and business centre in the city.
The Czech foreign ministry deplored the latest Russian move as “another step in the escalation of the relations, not just with the Czech Republic but also with the European Union and its allies”.
“It absolutely contradicts the Vienna convention about diplomatic relations, especially the commitment of the signatories to enable the proper functioning of diplomatic missions based on the principle of no-discrimination between individual states,” it said.
The US embassy in Prague tweeted that “We are proud to stand alongside our steadfast Ally, the Czech Republic!”