(CNN)That the Czech Republic is pointing the finger at two Russian agents for a deadly explosion at an ammunition depot in the country is remarkable. The fact that the agents in question are the same pair accused of trying to poison a former Russian spy on English soil is nothing short of astounding.
Two Russian agents have been linked to a high-profile poisoning and a deadly explosion, but there's little Europe can do
On Saturday, Czech police released images of two men they said were linked to a blast which killed two people at a repository in Vrbetice in 2014.
The photographs matched those of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the names the prime suspects traveled under during their alleged involvement in the near-fatal poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018.
A day later, the UK foreign office said that according to Czech authorities, the two men charged with the Skripals' attempted murder "were also behind the deaths of two civilians and an explosion in the Czech town of Vrbetice."
A Czech government source with direct knowledge of the investigation said Monday that police suspect the explosion was premature and not meant to happen on Czech territory.
The source, who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said the Czech police's organized crime unit is pursuing a line of inquiry that suggests the ammunition was meant to explode in Bulgaria after being exported there. It is not clear why the blast happened prematurely.
The Czech Republic said it would expel 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague in retaliation for the 2014 explosion, which caused huge financial and environmental damage.
Russia responded by expelling 20 diplomats from the Czech Republic's embassy in Moscow.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the Czech Republic's decision "provocative and unfriendly."
The UK believes that the two men suspected of carrying out the Salisbury attack were Russian intelligence officers, first identified by the investigative website Bellingcat as Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin.
The Kremlin has dismissed the allegations, and at times appeared to mock the West for its hysterical "Russophobia." Russian and international media subsequently confirmed the identities of Chepiga and Mishkin in interviews with residents of their home villages in Russia's north and Far East.
If it's true that the same two men were behind this explosion, and Moscow's response to such serious allegations remains similarly glib, it raises serious questions about what Europe can really do to curb Russia's brazen hostility.
The Skripals were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury city center on March 4, 2018; tests revealed they had been exposed to Novichok, a nerve agent described as one of the deadliest chemical weapons ever made.
Moscow has denied any involvement with the Salisbury incident, and the two men claim they were in the UK as tourists. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the two men identified as suspects are "not criminals."
But even if Putin doesn't believe they are criminals, there is ample evidence the two pair are far from innocent tourists who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Back in 2018, Britain's then-Prime Minister, Theresa May, told lawmakers that UK authorities believed the two suspects were officers of the Russian military intelligence service known as the GRU.
"The GRU is a highly-disciplined organization with a well-established chain of command, so this was not a rogue operation," May said in parliament. "It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state."