On Wednesday, the government revoked nine resolutions from the 1970s and 1980s that entrusted the then Soviet Union with real estate for free use for diplomatic purposes. The approval of the material was confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to Czech diplomacy, Russia uses the land for purposes other than diplomatic purposes, so there is no reason to continue providing it free of charge.
The case concerns Prague apartments near the embassy, but also buildings in Brno, Karlovy Vary or recreational facilities in Vlkančice or Jevany. Wednesday’s cancellation of the resolution will affect a total of 59 plots of land. Russia will have to fulfill the relevant tax obligations for the affected properties. Instead of free use, it will also be possible to negotiate use on the basis of lease agreements, or to proceed with other solutions more beneficial for the Czech Republic.
“We canceled the government’s decisions made under the guns of Russian tanks after the occupation of our country, which until today allowed Russia to use large plots of land on our territory for free. Unauthorized profits from the use of these plots must not be used to support the current occupation of Ukraine,” said Dvořák on twitter.
Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský (Pirates) submitted the proposal to the government back in March, but withdrew the material from the meeting due to an additional legal assessment of the matter.
The Czech Republic has strained diplomatic relations with Russia after the Czech secret services and investigators discovered the year before last that Russian secret service agents were involved in the 2014 explosions in ammunition warehouses in Vrbětice in the Zlín region. The number of Russian diplomats in the Czech Republic was further reduced even after last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine. There are currently six diplomats working at the Russian Embassy in Prague. The low number of diplomats and employees of the Russian embassy is one of the main arguments of the ministry, according to which the embassy cannot use a large number of properties exclusively for diplomatic purposes.
The Czech Republic has repeatedly informed Russia about the matter. According to the explanatory report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held discussions with the Russian Embassy on the definition of real estate used for diplomatic purposes, including the related conditions of their use. Russia refused this, so the ministry informed in a note in July 2020 that the Czech Republic does not recognize real estate outside the mission’s premises that is not used for diplomatic purposes as of that date.
From May 2022, the buildings of the former Russian Consulates General in Karlovy Vary and Brno will also lose the status of consular rooms.
According to the ministry, some of the properties are being used for commercial purposes, thus Russia is enriching itself for no reason while using the land for free. “For the sake of completeness, it should be added at the same time that the total area of land used free of charge by the Russian Federation in the Czech Republic (92,001 square meters, of which 87,863 m2 is state land) and by the Czech Republic in the Russian Federation (26,875 m2) is far from respecting the principle of reciprocity,” he said resort.
The ministry drew attention to the possibility that the move would lead to a Russian reaction with regard to the Czech House in Moscow, which, although owned by the Czech Republic, is located on land owned by Russia. “A certain ‘security’ institute for this purpose remains the object of the so-called ‘Russian School’, the use of which for diplomatic purposes is also at least questionable, but with regard to the existence of an intergovernmental agreement and taking into account the fact that it is an object used for state non-commercial purposes , is not the subject of the proposed settlement,” the ministry said. The Russian school has not been functioning since the expulsion of the Russian diplomats.
The ministry considered negotiations with Russia in order to exchange the Czech House for some real estate used by Russia in Prague, but after the invasion of Ukraine, according to the office, the chances of negotiations with a positive result are slim.
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