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Czech official says he's under protection after Russian plot

PRAGUE (AP) — A Prague district mayor said Tuesday that he has been under police protection due to the presence of a Russian citizen who allegedly came to assassinate him. In an recorded interview broadcast by Prima television, Prague 6 mayor Ondrej Kolar said he had police protection because of “some facts that have been found, the fact that there’s a Russian here whose goal is to liquidate me. Not just me, but also Mr. Hrib and Mr. Novotny.”

The statement came a day after a media report claiming that Russian spies may have plotted to poison the mayor of Prague and Kolar whose recent actions have angered Moscow. Respekt weekly said in its latest edition published on Monday that Czech intelligence services suspected a Russian agent was sent to Prague three weeks ago to poison Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib and Kolar with ricin, a highly potent toxin.

The story was based on anonymous sources. Czech officials didn’t comment. On Monday, the Russian embassy in Prague sent a protest note to the Czech Foreign Ministry over the allegations, calling them baseless and designed to discredit Russia.

On Tuesday, the Czech Foreign Ministry said it was inappropriate for a foreign state to question basic rights such as freedom of the press. Hrib and Kolar have both been strongly criticized recently by Russian officials. Hrib is also under police protection. Authorities didn’t give any reason for that measure.

In February, a Prague square in front of the Russian Embassy was renamed after slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, with Hrib unveiling the new nameplate. In April, Kolar’s district removed the statue of Soviet World War II commander Ivan Stepanovic Konev whose armies liberated Prague from Nazi occupation.

Officials in Prague 6 said the statue will be moved to a museum and a new monument honoring the city’s liberation will be installed in its place. Pavel Novotny, Prague’s Reporyje district mayor, angered Russia by a plan to build a monument to the soldiers of Gen. Andrei Vlasov’s army, who helped liberate Prague at the end of World War II but also were fighting against the Red Army together with Nazi troops.