Ukraine is expelling two Czech embassy military attaches for spying, the foreign ministry said Friday, in a scandal that adds to tense relations between the two states.
A note informing Prague of the decision was handed to the acting charge d'affaires of the Czech Republic's embassy in Kiev Vitezslav Pivonka after he was summoned to the foreign ministry, it said in a statement. The two people were declared persona non-grata.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said it had officially protested against the use of "their diplomatic status to collect information which is considered to be a Ukrainian state secret," said the statement.
"We hope that our relations will not be tarnished by such incidents in the future," the statement added, underlining the importance of "developing friendly relations" with the Czech Republic, an ex-Soviet bloc EU member state.
"There is no politics here. These are military attaches. A man and a woman. One is a lieutenant colonel, the other a major," the Ukrainska Pravda online paper quoted a Ukrainian diplomatic source as saying.
"They are wholly military people, not quite diplomats, they just use diplomatic accreditation," the source said. He said the decision to expel them was taken by the Ukrainian SBU security service.
The two employees were gathering information in the aviation sphere, he added, without elaborating.
Prague earlier this year angered Kiev by awarding asylum to Ukraine's former economy minister Bogdan Danylyshyn, who is under investigation on accusations of abusing power. The decision was called "incoherent" by the Ukrainian side.