Prague charges former Soviet soldier with espionage

28 March, 01:23 AM
Mykola Shaposhnikov (Photo:CT24)

Mykola Shaposhnikov (Photo:CT24)

Czech prosecutors are looking to charge Mykola Shaposhnikov, a former Soviet soldier who became a Czech citizen in 1990s, with espionage, over his suspected role in the 2014 ammunition warehouse explosion in Vrbětice, Czech news outlet Lidové Noviny reported on March 27.

On Oct 16, 2014, an explosion occurred at a warehouse of Imex Group, killing two people and causing extensive damage. Shaposhnikov worked as a consultant for the company at the time.

Lidové Noviny, citing sources, claims that shortly before the explosion Shaposhnikov passed information about the ammunition stored in the village of Vrbětice to Russian General Andrei Averyanov. Averyanov is the head of Russian GRU military intelligence agents, Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, who, having received the information, arrived to the Czech Republic on forged passports, and, according to the Czech investigation, blew up the warehouse.

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Shaposhnikov also sent an e-mail to the owner of the warehouse indicating the days when GRU agents would arrive in Vrbětice, posing as weapons inspectors from Tajikistan and Moldova.

According to the article, on Oct. 4, 2014, Averyanov met with Shaposhnikov in Portugal, after which Averyanov returned to Moscow. On Oct. 7, tickets were bought for Chepiga and Mishkin, who arrived in Prague on Oct. 11. On Oct. 16, the explosion took place in the village of Vrbětice. On the same day, both agents and Averyanov, who was in Vienna at that time, flew back to Moscow.

According to Lidové Noviny, agents Chepiga and Mishkin haven’t been formally charged in the Czech Republic, as the investigation has no confirmation that they were in Vrbětice.

Shaposhnikov's daughter confirmed that her father, along with family members, met Averyanov in Portugal. She described it as an ordinary meeting of acquaintances. Shaposhnikov himself, who testified in the case, stated that he didn’t know the true identity of the two "inspectors". The prosecution now believes he misled the investigation.

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