Fuel tanker ‘ordered to block Russian plane from taking off at Czech airport’



A Czech government minister ordered a fuel tanker to block the take-off of a Russian aeroplane at Prague’s Vaclav Havel airport in a dramatic confrontation reminiscent of a spy thriller, it has emerged.



Miroslav Kalousek, the finance minister, sent the vehicle on to the runway in a last-ditch attempt to prevent Russian officials extraditing businessman Alexei Torubarov to Moscow to face charges of fraud.

Czech police confronted Russian officials on the aeroplane over the controversial extradition but were allegedly ordered to back down in order to avoid a dangerous stand-off, and the plane was eventually allowed to fly.

The incident took place on May 2 after Czech authorities gave permission for Mr Torubarov to be extradited, despite concerns that he was framed by a corrupt security services officer.

The businessman reportedly fled from the Russian city of Volgograd to Austria, but later moved to the Czech Republic where he applied for asylum. But he was arrested by Czech Authorities and a court ordered he be returned to Moscow to face trial.

However, at the last moment, as an Aeroflot plane carrying Mr Torubarov prepared to take off from Prague a group of cabinet ministers decided to intervene, believing that extradition procedures had been not been properly completed.

According to Czech media reports, the group included Foreign Minister Karel Shwarzenburg and Mr Kalousek, whose ministry is directly responsible for Vaclav Havel airport.

Hana Demeterova, an NGO worker who helped Mr Torubarov with his asylum application, told The Daily Telegraph that a senior justice ministry official informed her of the stand-off.

“He said the finance minister ordered a tanker to block the runway,” she said. “The interior minister called the police president, and the police president sent police to the plane to take him [Mr Torubarov] off the plane.

“The Russians refused, saying that if you want him then you have to have documents. He said our police wanted to take Torubarov off the plane but it could have ended in shooting so they decided to get off, and the flight left for Moscow.” Mr Kalousek told the Lidové noviny newspaper: “Everything that the airport staff did was exclusively my responsibility.”

Details of the drama emerged as the Czech Prime Minister, Petr Necas, visited Russia with a business delegation and met President Vladimir Putin for talks this week.

Mr Necas’s critics say he has been cosying up with Mr Putin, despite concerns over human rights in Russia. At a meeting at the Czech embassy in Moscow on Monday he criticised feminist activists from the Pussy Riot group who were jailed for two years for a “punk prayer” in the city’s main cathedral, causing worldwide condemnation.

The women were “no fighters for freedom and human rights”, he reportedly said, adding: “They desecrated an Orthodox church, but they were punished, though too strictly, for it.”

Mr Necas earlier condemned the “artificial and false adoration” of Pussy Riot, saying it was “the height of tawdriness”.

Russia’s general prosecutor alleges that Mr Torubarov defrauded two business partners. It refused to comment on his extradition.

Mr Torubarov has claimed that he was set up after being cheated by a corrupt officer from Russia’s Federal Security Service in Volgograd.

Milan Hulik, a lawyer acting for him, told The Daily Telegraph: “He is completely innocent. I believe this extradition was the result of some kind of political business between Prague and Moscow.”



LN: Fin. Minister wanted to stop extradition of Russia’s Torubarov


Prague, May 27 (CTK) – Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) wanted to stop the departure of businessman Alexei Torubarov extradited to Russia over criminal prosecution on May 2, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes Monday, referring to Kalousek himself.

Kalousek allegedly even ordered the staff at the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague airport to station a fuel tank before the Russian plane.

LN writes that Kalousek was trying to prevent international shame because Torubarov was extradited without the asylum procedure having been completed in the Czech Republic.

Torubarov was accused in Russia of blackmailing a secret service officer and of frauds.

Torubarov, for his turn, claims he himself was blackmailed by the Russian secret service, police and mafia.

He applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, but was taken into custody based on an international arrest warrant.

Justice Minister Pavel Blazek then made a decision on Torubarov’s extradition, LN writes.

However, at the moment when Torubarov was to leave for Russia, the Czech finance, justice, foreign affairs, transport and the interior ministers attempted to stop the extradition, even resorting to the blocking of the plane.

The Vaclav Havel Airport falls under Kalousek’s ministry.

“Everything what the airport staff were doing was exclusively my responsibility,” Kalousek told LN.

But the plane with Torubarov eventually left Prague.

His family has filed a criminal complaint against Blazek over the extradition.

Blazek would not comment on what happened at the airport, but he said he does not consider Torubarov’s extradition a mistake.

Foreign Minister Karel Schwazrenberg is of the opposite opinion. “It was simply a typical mistake. The first information we got was that the extradition was stopped, and later we were told that it was not stopped,” he told LN.





Finance Minister Kalousek on Torubarov’s extradition



Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek says he made a last-minute attempt to prevent the extradition of Russian businessman Alexej Torubarov to his homeland. In an interview for Lidove Noviny the finance minister said that when he learnt that an extradition order had been signed without the asylum proceedings having been properly concluded he had called the control tower at Vaclav Havel Airport and ordered them to prevent Torubarov’s plane leaving at any cost and even place a tanker in its way. The plane eventually left with Torubarov on board and his family have now filed charges against the Czech Justice Ministry for allowing his extradition. In Russia the businessman is wanted for fraud and blackmailing an intelligence officer but he claims that he is being persecuted by the Russian intelligence service. Foreign Minister Karel Schwazrzenberg said his extradition was a regrettable mistake caused by a bureaucratic mix-up.




Drama at Vaclav Havel Airport as Czech top officials try to hold extradition of Russian businessman

The dramatic circumstances surrounding the extradition of Russian businessman Alexej Torubarov from the Czech Republic earlier this month are making headlines amid fears for the man’s fate in Russia. Since the daily Lidové noviny broke the story on Monday it has emerged that several cabinet ministers made a desperate though vain attempt to get Torubarov off the Aeroflot plane just before take-off.

A run-of-the-mill extradition in line with international law or a bureaucratic mistake that may cost a man’s life? As more facts on the case emerge, everything points to the latter case.

The Czech authorities had received an extradition request for Alexej Torubarov from Russia where he was charged with fraud and blackmailing a member of the country’s intelligence services. For his part Torubarov claimed that he was persecuted by the Russian police and mafia and filed for asylum in the Czech Republic. The extradition request went through three Czech courts and, on the grounds of evidence provided by the Russian side, all three justices approved it.

However, when Justice Minister Pavel Blažek signed the extradition papers the asylum proceedings on Torubarov’s case had not been properly concluded. This set in motion a series of dramatic events at Prague’s Vaclav Havel Airport on May 2nd. As Torubarov was handed over to the Russian authorities a message reached Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg alerting him to the fact that the man’s asylum request had not been decided. According to Lidové noviny the minister launched a desperate attempt to stop the extradition, getting the interior, justice, transport and finance ministers involved in the process. Finance Minister Kalousek, whose ministry is directly responsible for Vaclav Havel Airport, reportedly called control tower as the Aeroflot plane was preparing for take-off and ordered them to stop the plane at any cost – by putting a tanker in its way if necessary. Control tower complied, but getting Torubarov off the plane proved impossible. The pilot allegedly asked for a written order and the police officers sent on the mission only had verbal orders. The plane eventually took off with Torubarov on board.

His family is said to be devastated by the news and they have filed charges against Justice Minister Pavel Blazek for violating international asylum laws. Minister Blazek insists that he only confirmed the decision of three courts, the asylum proceedings were a separate matter. While the justice and interior ministries are rejecting any responsibility for the development, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has openly admitted that Torubarov’s extradition was a regrettable mistake caused by a bureaucratic mix-up. Since Torubarov left the country three weeks ago his Czech lawyer Milan Hulík has been unable to reach him. Any efforts by the Czech Foreign Ministry on his behalf would naturally remain confidential.




Russian’s extradittion is Czech judiciary’s failure, says Kalousek


Prague, May 28 (CTK) – The extradition of Russian businessman Alexei Torubarov is a tragic failure of the Czech judiciary and the Justice Ministry, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09) said on Czech Television (CT) Tuesday.

He said he did not interfere in the case, but only attempted to create a time space for the relevant bodies to act.

Lubomir Zaoralek, deputy chairman of the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), said earlier Tuesday Kalousek’s attempt to stop Torubarov’s departure was an international scandal and that the matter should be checked by the state attorney’s office.

Torubarov was accused in Russia of blackmailing a secret service officer and of frauds. He claims he himself was blackmailed by the Russian secret service, police and organised crime groups.

He applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, but was taken into custody based on an international arrest warrant.

Justice Minister Pavel Blazek (Civic Democratic Party, ODS) then made a decision on Torubarov’s extradition.

However, at the moment when Torubarov was to leave for Russia on May 2, the Czech finance, justice, foreign affairs, transport and the interior ministers attempted to stop the extradition.

Kalousek tried to stop the take-off by having a fuel tank placed before the plane on the runway.

The Vaclav Havel Airport falls under Kalousek’s ministry.

But the plane with Torubarov eventually left Prague.

“I am deeply convinced that his extradition was a gross mistake. We should not have done it, our conscience will be burdened for many years because we may have sent an innocent man to death,” Kalousek told CT.

He said Torubarov was extradited to a regime that he does not consider to be entirely democratic without his asylum application procedure having been completed.

“The judiciary may have proceeded strictly according to law articles, but without realising the situation, without taking ethics and human rights protection into consideration,” Kalousek said.

“[Kalousek's measure] clearly violated international regulations,” Zaoralek said.

“It is quite inconceivable and I cannot understand that air controllers obeyed the finance minister who has no power in this field,” Zaoralek said, adding that Kalousek had probably overstepped his powers.

“I absolutely do not intend to speak about this,” Kalousek told journalists earlier Tuesday.

“All I can say is that if anyone tries to make the airport personnel accountable for this, I will assume the responsibility. I have said this several times,” he added.

Kalousek said whatever had been done by the airport personnel in the incriminating time, was his own responsibility.

“This is the only thing I have said about it. All the rest seems to me pretty funny,” Kalousek said.

Zaoralek said this was no James Bond thriller as seen by a part of the public, but a danger to the passengers.

“It is absolutely incredible to place a fuel tank before a plane’s route,” he added.

“What might have happened if the plane had crashed into it, if there had been an explosion, this is beyond imagination,” he added.

Zaoralek said he believed Blazek, too, had made a mistake in the affair.

He said since Blazek had decided on the extradition before the asylum proceedings were ended, this was a “very serious failure.”

Torubarov’s family have filed a criminal complaint against Blazek over the extradition.

Blazek would not comment on what happened at the airport, but he said he does not consider Torubarov’s extradition a mistake.




Torubarov should not have been extradited to Russia – Czech NGO


Prague – Justice Minister Pavel Blazek (Civic Democratic Party, ODS) did not have the right to extradite Russian businessman Alexei Torubarov to Russia because the authorities did not settle his request for asylum, Lubica Turzova, from the Czech Helsinki Committee (CHV), said today.

Blazek’s spokeswoman Stepanka Cechova said earlier Blazek had allowed the extradition in keeping with the criminal procedure, after it had been approved by the regional court, a high court and the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Petr Necas (ODS) defended Blazek.

Torubarov was accused in Russia of blackmailing a secret service officer and of frauds. He claims he himself was blackmailed by the Russian secret service, police and organised crime groups.

He applied for asylum in the Czech Republic, but was taken into custody based on an international arrest warrant. Blazek then made a decision on Torubarov’s extradition.

However, at the moment when Torubarov was to leave for Russia on May 2, the Czech finance, justice, foreign affairs, transport and the interior ministers attempted to stop the extradition.

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09), under whose ministry the Prague international airport falls, tried to stop the take-off by having a fuel tank placed before the plane on the runway. But the plane with Torubarov eventually left Prague.

“The courts do not have to deal with the questions of asylum proceedings,” the CHV said in its press release.

“On the other hand, a justice minister must not allow the extradition of a person whose asylum proceedings are underway or are not ended,” it added.

The CHV pointed to a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court, whose view was stressed by the server Lidovky.cz. today.

However, the office replied that its position was not binding on the minister.

The CHV said Blazek’s explanation that he had acted on the basis of court decisions amounted to buck-passing.

A minister can ban extradition even if courts allow it, it added.

“Blazek proceeded in an absolutely usual way, in harmony with law as he respected the decision of three courts,” Necas’s spokesman Jan Hrubes said.

“It is necessary to refute the rumours about the fuel tanks disseminated by the media. The order to stop the take-off of the airplane with Torubarov on its board was given by Transport Minister (Zbynek) Stanjura,” he added.

“If anyone failed to fulfil its duties, it was the Foreign Ministry,” Hrubes said.

Author: ČTK



Анна Степнова

Приговор до суда

Волгоградские СМИ сообщили, что экстрадирован из Чехии и доставлен в Волгоград предприниматель, один из лучших наших рестораторов Алексей Торубаров. Напомнили, что он обвиняется в мошенничестве, но не рассказали деталей. Между тем, экстрадиция волгоградского ресторатора была с такими страшными подробностями, что мне уже который день становится не по себе, как только я об этом вспоминаю.

Это скрин с сайта немецкой газеты Tageszeitung. Перевод - отсюда. В нижней строчке видим знакомую фамилию.

2 мая в пражском аэропорту имени Вацлава Гавела произошло событие, отлично вписавшееся бы в какой-нибудь остросюжетный фильм. В самый последний момент министр финансов Чехии Мирослав Калоусек вместе со своим коллегой Карелом Шварценбергом, занимающим в чешском правительстве пост министра иностранных дел, попытались остановить депортацию на родину российского предпринимателя Алексея Торубарова. Для этого, говорится далее, политики прибегли к нетрадиционным методам: сотрудники аэропорта получили распоряжение перекрыть взлетно-посадочную полосу авиазаправщиком.
Все дело в том, подчеркивает издание, что местное министерство юстиции по ошибке дало зеленый свет на депортацию предпринимателя, несмотря на то, что вопрос о предоставлении ему убежища еще не был окончательно решен и у чешских властей были серьезные основания опасаться за его жизнь. Ведь в России, подчеркивает Tageszeitung, “волгоградский ресторатор Торубаров вступил в конфликт с ФСБ и ОПГ, подав на них в суд по обвинению в коррупции и вымогательстве денежных средств”. В правительстве, цитирует чешская Lidové noviny своего близкого к правительственным кругам источника, “знали, что, выдав Торубарова России, они приговорят его к смерти”.
Однако даже несмотря на личное вмешательство министров, депортация состоялась. Свидетели говорят, что “русские так сильно не хотели отдавать обратно бизнесмена, что дело дошло чуть ли не до перестрелки”, в результате чего чехи отступили. В настоящее время, отмечает издание, о дальнейшей судьбе предпринимателя ничего не известно.

Свою версию событий Алексей почти три года назад подробно описал, я ее публиковала в ЖЖ. Уже после отъезда Алексея из страны (не хочу говорить – бегства, хотя это оно и было) мы с ним пытались переписываться, но потом связь оборвалась. Сравнительно недавно я узнала, что было дальше. Когда в Австрию поступил запрос на его экстрадицию, его поместили под стражу и стали рассматривать дело. И не нашли в нем ничего такого, что вообще позволяло бы ставить вопрос об уголовном преследовании. Однако, поскольку он въехал в Австрию по чешской визе, его отправили в Чехию. Не так уж и плохо, учитывая, что его семья уже там обосновалась. Новый запрос поступил туда. Мы долго ничего о нем не знали, говорили, что он покончил с собой, но потом выяснилось, что слух под собой оснований не имел. Никаких. Правда, проблемы со здоровьем у него серьезные. Кто читает по-чешки – можно посмотреть здесь, гугл-переводчик в помощь, я не могу это пересказывать, мне просто больно, я к нему хорошо относилась всегда, и женщины меня поймут: тяжко узнать, что двухметрового красавца-мужчину довели до такого состояния. По той же ссылке собраны многочисленные документы и публикации, касающиеся дела Торубарова. Завершается подборка новостью 2008 года о вручении ему награды за поступок года от волгоградской “Деловой России”.

И вот новый поворот. Дело его “напарника” Чуманова рассматривается в военном суде, в какой стадии – не знаю, этот суд закрыт от посторонних еще крепче, чем обычный.

Не хочу обсуждать, прав или виноват Алексей, кому и сколько он должен.
Для меня важно другое.

Когда бы мы за кого так сражались, как чехи бились за нашего товарища?





Wyciągnięta broń, cysterna blokuje samolot. Premier Czech w Moskwie w cieniu skandalu


Premier Czech w trakcie swojej czterodniowej wizyty w Rosji skupia się co prawda na sprawach energetycznych i współpracy gospodarczej, ale niewykluczone, że nie uda mu się uniknąć tematu, który w ostatnich dniach wstrząsnął Czechami i dotyczy relacji z Rosją. Chodzi o dramatyczną akcję na praskim lotnisku, gdy ministrowie rządu premiera Petra Neczasa na próżno usiłowali zapobiec ekstradycji rosyjskiego biznesmena do Moskwy.

O dramatycznej akcji na lotnisku Vaclava Havla pod Pragą z początku maja poinformował w poniedziałek dziennik “Lidove Noviny”. Obsługa naziemna lotniska zablokowała nawet rosyjski samolot używając cysterny z paliwem, ale wojnę nerwów o ekstradycję przedsiębiorcy wygrały rosyjskie służby bezpieczeństwa – piszą “Lidove Nowiny” w wydaniu internetowym.


Główny bohater – przedsiębiorca

Główna postać tamtych wydarzeń to 53-letni Aleksiej Torubarow, właściciel kilkunastu restauracji w Wołgogradzie, który naraził się tamtejszym władzom. W 2011 roku Torubarow uciekł do Wiednia i wystąpił o azyl polityczny. Austriackim władzom powiedział, że rosyjska mafia, która opłacała prokuratorów, służby bezpieczeństwa i władze miejskie Wołgogradu, zagroziła mu śmiercią.

W związku z tym, że Torubarow został oskarżony w Rosji o sprzeniewierzenie majątku i rozesłano za nim listy gończe, Austriacy zatrzymali podejrzanego do wyjaśnienia sprawy, ale nie wydali go Rosjanom. Podejrzenia Torubarowa dotyczące własnego bezpieczeństwa okazały się przy tym słuszne – w obozie dla azylantów cudem uniknął śmierci, kiedy zaatakowano go nożem.

W 2012 roku Austria odesłała biznesmena do Pragi, ponieważ miał czeską wizę pobytową. W stolicy Czech mieszkała bowiem jego żona i starszy syn.


Zatrzymany, apele nie pomogły

Czesi zatrzymali Torubarowa i przez kilka miesięcy trzymali w areszcie, choć mężczyzna wystąpił o azyl polityczny. Jego rodzina toczyła równocześnie walkę z czeską prokuraturą, wynajmując najlepszych adwokatów, by nie dopuścić do ekstradycji Torubarowa do Rosji. Jednak w kwietniu bieżącego roku minister sprawiedliwości Pavel Blażek uznał, że Torubarow może w Rosji liczyć na uczciwy proces i mimo dramatycznych apeli organizacji obywatelskich, m.in. czeskiego oddziału Amnesty International, podpisał decyzję o ekstradycji.


Jak w filmie sensacyjnym

2 maja wydarzenia potoczyły się błyskawicznie. Na nadzwyczajnym posiedzeniu rządu pięciu członków gabinetu premiera Neczasa – szef dyplomacji Karel Schwarzenberg, szef MSW Jan Kubice, minister przemysłu Martin Kuba, minister transportu Zbynek Stajnura i minister finansów Miroslav Kalousek – zablokowało decyzję o ekstradycji. Jednak Torubarow był już na pokładzie maszyny Aerofłotu, przygotowującej się do startu z lotniska Havla do Moskwy. Wtedy minister spraw wewnętrznych polecił szefowi policji Martinovi Czerviczkovi, aby nie dopuścił do startu rosyjskiej maszyny.

Była godz. 11.30, kiedy rozkaz szefa MSW dotarł na lotnisko. Samolot z Torubarowem kołował na pas startowy. Minister transportu, któremu podlega obsługa naziemna i ruch na lotnisku, podjął desperacką decyzję i nakazał personelowi lotniska zablokować kołującą maszynę Aerofłotu cysterną z benzyną. Jednocześnie polecił wieży kontrolnej, by nie wydawała zgody na start rosyjskiego samolotu. Póki Torubarow znajdował się na terytorium Czech, podlegał czeskiej jurysdykcji.

Rosjanie nie ustąpili. Otoczeni przez policję uznali, że decyzja komendanta policji im nie wystarczy i zażądali doręczenia oficjalnego anulowania ekstradycji. Następnie rosyjscy policjanci, którzy przylecieli, by eskortować Torubarowa, wyciągnęli broń.



Torubarow zniknął

W wojnie nerwów zwyciężyli Rosjanie. Minister spraw zagranicznych Karel Schwarzenberg podjął polityczną decyzję, by zezwolić na start samolotu z Torubarowem na pokładzie. Od tego czasu po rosyjskim przedsiębiorcy wszelki ślad zaginął.

- Czeskim policjantom zabrakło odwagi i zdecydowania – opisuje sytuację jeden z naocznych świadków wydarzenia. “Gdyby wykazali taką determinację jak personel lotniska, wyciągnęliby Torubarowa z samolotu. Zapewne obawiano się strzelaniny na płycie lotniska” – sugeruje dziennik “Lidove Noviny”.

- Nigdy nie doszłoby do tego dramatu, gdyby minister sprawiedliwości nie zgodził się na ekstradycję Turobarowa – twierdzi praski adwokat rosyjskiego przedsiębiorcy Milan Hulik. Jego zdaniem minister naruszył umowy międzynarodowe, wydając decyzję o ekstradycji Torubarowa przed zakończeniem rozpatrywania wniosku o udzielenie mu azylu politycznego i naraził w ten sposób władze czeskie na międzynarodową kompromitację.

Jakub Pastuszek z wydziału ekstradycji ministerstwa sprawiedliwości powiedział jednak lakonicznie dziennikowi “Lidove Noviny’, że wszystko odbyło się zgodnie z prawem, po czym odłożył słuchawkę.


Neczas a Torubarow

Czy sprawa Torubarowa zostanie poruszona przez Neczasa w Moskwie? Raczej wątpliwe. Na razie premier Czech skupił się na problemach współpracy gospodarczej, w tym w sferze energetycznej.

W czterodniowej wizycie w Rosji Neczasowi towarzyszy minister przemysłu i handlu Martin Kuba oraz kilkudziesięciu czeskich przedsiębiorców. Poza Moskwą i Soczi szef rządu Czech odwiedzi Petersburg i Jekaterynburg.

Przed odlotem do Moskwy Neczas oświadczył, że jego wizyta “będzie stanowić potwierdzenie bardzo dobrych relacji między Czechami i Rosją – tak w sferze ekonomicznej, jak i politycznej”.

Wartość obrotów handlowych między obu krajami w 2012 roku wzrosła o 6 proc. i wyniosła 14 mld dolarów.

Autor: mtom/k / Źródło: PAP







Prague, Moscow, and the value of speaking firmly, clearly and with one voice

It is, of course, a hackneyed cliché to talk about the “Russian bear.” Nonetheless, it is fair to say that prodding either with a stick is equally ill-advised. However, the usual advice on encountering a bear is to give it its space, be submissive, be quiet. That doesn’t work so well with Moscow. By the same token it is a dangerous caricature to suggest (as some sadly still do) that force or assertiveness is “all Russia understands.” However, what is certainly true is that meekness and the appearance of division tend to encourage Moscow to become more confrontational. Consider, for example, the markedfailure of the US government’s “re-set” policy, which has failed to deter Russia from buttressing Syrian tyranny, spying on and perhaps murdering its critics abroad, publicly outing US agents, hounding Ambassador McFaul and doing everything but kicking sand in Obama’s face.

In this context—and given that I’m in Prague for the summer, I’m especially interested in Czech-Russian relations—I was perturbed by the details of the extradition to Moscow of Russian businessman Alexei Torubarov in May, especially in the context of what seems agrowing assertiveness by Russia in Central and Southern Europe.

He fled Russia, claiming that he was being blackmailed by the Russian police and security apparatus and organized crime. Moscow conversely had charged Torubarov with fraud and blackmailing a Federal Security Service (FSB) agent. They had issued an international arrest warrant for him.

Torubarov sought asylum, but before the resolution of his application, Justice Minister Pavel Blažek ordered him deported. Several other ministers, including Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, Interior Minister Jan Kubice and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, wanted at the eleventh hour to prevent what they considered an over-hasty deportation, as Torubarov was sitting on the tarmac at Vaclav Havel Airport.

Kubice ordered police to take Torubarov off the Aeroflot jet and Kalousek, whose remit includes the airport, even told ground staff to block the runway with a fuel bowser. Tensions were high and it was even possible that there might be an armed clash between Czech and Russian security forces. The Russians did not blink; ultimately the Czechs did. The aircraft with Torubarov and his captors was eventually allowed to depart.

I do not believe that firefights at international airports are anything to encourage. Nor did I have any idea whether or not Torubarov’s case warranted asylum—I know from my own experience how easy it is for Russian crooks simply to claim to be victims of other Russian crooks in a bid to escape justice. However, it is striking that Blažek moved so quickly to have him handed to the Russians, even before the legal process had been completed and how divided the Czech government turned out to be. This is especially striking as debates continue over the competition between a Russian and a US-Japanese consortium for the Temelin nuclear power station construction contract and other hot-button issues in Russo-Czech relations.

Prague has, of course, a complex relationship with Moscow—in the Prague Post I suggest that it “is located at the hazy boundary between risk and opportunity.” This was made very clear during the recent trip to Moscow by Prime Minister Petr Nečas. Accompanied by serried ranks of businesspeople, he was there to push investment and joint ventures and clearly wanted to avoid antagonizing his hosts. Over the Pussy Riot case, for example, he tried to strike a balance between acquiescence and conscience, saying on the one hand that the “Pussy Riot members are no fighters for freedom and human rights. They desecrated an Orthodox church,” but on the other that there were punished “too strictly, for it.”

This is the kind of equivocation that satisfies no one. The fact of the matter is that the Czechs are in a stronger position in relation to Russia than they might believe. They invest much more in their larger near-neighbor, they are a favored place for Russian tourism, real-estate development and money-moving, and they are less dependent on Russian hydrocarbons than many other Central European states.

There is also scope for genuine partnership—in other words, one based on true mutuality—in a number of specific foreign policy areas. Neither Prague and Moscow want to seeEuropean weapons flow to the Syrian rebels, for example (albeit for very different reasons). Likewise, Prague is supportive of a more liberal European visa regime for Russia—something Moscow has wanted for some time.

At the same time, Prague should avoid looking too vulnerable, amenable or divided. The last is difficult given the fissiparous nature of the coalition government, uniting as it does more Russo-skeptical figures such as Schwarzenberg and the more conciliatory dominant ODS party. This is also complicated by the Russophile tendencies of new president Miloš Zeman, who is trying to establish a greater role for himself in foreign policy. However, the more these divisions are played out in public, and the more Russia’s interests seem to be granted a special, privileged status—visible in Torubarov’s pre-emptive extradition—the greater it encourages Russian assertiveness.

Besides which, there are areas in which Czech and Russian interests clearly diverge and on which one would hope the whole political class in Prague could agree. The intrusive and extensive level of Russian espionage in the Czech Republic, for example, which the BIS security service has chronicled, could be curbed. Likewise, there is scope for a more robust stand on Russian organized crime and dirty money than Moscow might like, yet which would certainly improve the ČR’s economic security.

Overall, the irony is that Nečas and Zeman are right—there are huge opportunities for the Czechs in developing strong and dynamic relations with Moscow. However, for those relations to be truly mutually-beneficial and for them not to force Prague into dependency or at least encourage Moscow into counter-productive assertiveness, the Czech must speak firmly, clearly and with one voice.