'Silliness': Czech president chides Russia for listing his nation as unfriendly

FILE PHOTO: Czech President Milos Zeman gestures in Vienna, Austria April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Russia's decision to put the Czech Republic on a list of "unfriendly" states is silly, Czech President Milos Zeman said on Sunday, following a chill in ties between the two countries as a result of an intelligence dispute.

Relations deteriorated sharply last month after the Czech government accused Russian military intelligence of causing a 2014 blast at an ammunition depot which killed two people, and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats from Prague.

Russia denied the allegations and retaliated by expelling Czech diplomats, and by putting the country on the "unfriendly" list on Friday alongside the United States, limiting the number of staff those governments can employ in Moscow.

"It is always wrong to be an enemy," Zeman said in a live interview on radio Frekvence 1.

"It is silliness from the Russian side, because making enemies from former friends is a mistake. If there cannot be friendship, then there should at least be correct relations."

Zeman has for years favoured friendly relations with Russia, backed Russian participation in building a new nuclear power plant in his country and has also urged Czech authorities to buy the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.

He has also veered from the official government line by saying there were was another possible version of what caused the ammunition explosion, a view he reiterated on Sunday.

But the president, who does not have executive powers to direct government policy, also backed the government's expulsions of Russian diplomats.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Pravin Char)

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