The Czech Republic asks for rent for land Russia was using for free

The Czech Republic canceled resolutions from the Soviet Union era that allowed Russia to use Czech land for free.

Jan Lipavský, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs
Jan Lipavský, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, during the press conference after the cabinet meeting on May 17, 2022 | © Czech government

After a cabinet meeting on May 17, the government of the Czech Republic announced that they canceled resolutions that allowed Russia to use land in the Czech Republic for free. The Czech Republic will now ask for rent from Russia.

On the proposal of the minister for Foreign Affairs, the government revoked nine resolutions of the Czechoslovak communist governments between 1970 and 1982 which allowed the Soviet Union to use certain lands and other facilities free of charge.

Based on these resolutions, Russia, as the successor state of the Soviet Union, owns 42 buildings in the Czech Republic designated for diplomatic use under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

But according to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Russia last used these properties for diplomatic purposes long ago.

As a reminder, the government of the time was approving [the resolutions] in a country occupied by the Soviet Union,” said the prime minister Petr Fiala. “We’re finally getting into a normal situation,” he added. Mr. Fiala also said Russia didn’t respond to repeated warnings to address the situation.

Moreover, the Czech Republic will ask for retroactive payment of due rent for the last three years when Russia started using the buildings for non-diplomatic purposes. According to the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, some properties are used for commercial purposes.

Russia still owns the buildings, but they are now expected to pay rent for the 59 plots of land affected by the decision.

According to the Treasury, the Czech Republic could collect approximately 50 million crowns (2.4 million dollars).

The buildings are mostly located in Prague, but some would also be in Brno, the city of Karlovy Vary and include recreational facilities in Vlkančice and Jevany in Central Bohemia, according to Novinky.

According to the member of Parliament Ondřej Kolář, Russia owns 37 buildings in Prague on approximately 112,000 square meters of land that were not supposed to be free.

The representative of Prague 6, the largest municipal district of the city where most of the Russian buildings concerned are located, said it was known some were used as saunas, bakeries and that Russia rented some of the buildings. “I really don’t understand why we had to wait for so long,” he told Czech news website iRozhlas.

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, said on Russian television that the country would “of course” take retaliatory actions without providing any details. The Czech diplomacy believes it could affect the Czech House in Moscow, the largest property owned by the Czech state abroad which houses various government agencies on land owned by Russia.

The Russian Federation still has more than a dozen buildings in the Czech Republic, such as the Russian embassy, the ambassador’s residence and consular facilities in the Czech Republic used as part of its diplomatic missions.

But the move is the latest example of tense relations between the two countries that the invasion of Ukraine escalated.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have significantly reduced since the Czech Republic considered Russia was behind two explosions of arms depots in Vrbětice in 2014.

In April 2021, the Czech Republic and Russia expelled diplomats during what was then the highest tensions between the two countries in 30 years.

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