Russia's Reaction to Follow Swiftly if Political Motives Confirmed
During a Thursday briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova called Austria's accusations of doping abuse against Russian athletes "wild", adding that Austrian police created a "strange, destabilising, and oppressive atmosphere of threats and distrust" for them.
"To be honest, the reports from Austria that the Austrian police arrived at the Russian team's lodgings at night and gave them a notice, addressed to some of our leading athletes, accusing them of doping violations and so on, are somewhat wild", she said.
She elaborated that it was too early to say if the situation was politically motivated, but "if this information is confirmed, namely, about there being some political component to this situation and some attempt to put some psychological pressure on the Russian athletes, then our reaction will follow swiftly".
Zakharova stressed that neither the Foreign Minsitry, nor the Russian Embassy in Austria has received any requests related to the athletes' case.
“I would like to note that our diplomatic mission did not receive any official requests or notifications on the matter. Certainly, our diplomats keep in touch with their Austrian colleagues”, she said, emphasising that "there were no complaints against Russian athletes from the organisers of these sports events" either in 2017, or today.
In the meantime, the Russian Embassy in Austria has requested Austria's prosecution to provide official information on accusations against Russian athletes.
Russian national team biathlete Alexander Loginov said that the accusations by the Austrian police were related to “some kind of cheating with blood transfusions” in February 2017. The athlete added that law enforcement officials had not provided any details.
Moscow Declares Slovak Diplomat Persona Non Grata in Tit-for-Tat Move
Zakharova also announced that Russia had expelled a Slovak diplomat, having given him two days to leave the country:
“As you know, in November, Slovak authorities expelled a Russian military diplomat from the country. Given that in accordance with the generally accepted diplomatic practice, such unfriendly actions always entail retaliatory measures, we have declared a Slovak military diplomat persona non grata and he is to leave our country within two days", Zakharova said.
She also noted that the Slovak ambassador to Russia had already been presented with a relevant note on 11 December.
“Unlike our colleagues, we act according to the rules and observe the laws of diplomatic ethics: first we notify our partners, and then we publicise our contacts and share information, and not vice versa. We regret this unfriendly step by the Slovak side, which contradicts the traditions of our bilateral relations”, the diplomat added.
Prime Minister of Slovakia Peter Pellegrini announced the expulsion of a Russian diplomat on 5 December. According to him, the Russian diplomat was declared persona non grata on 22 November "based on information received from military intelligence", since "he was engaged in intelligence activities against Slovakia and NATO".