Russian diplomat expelled from Bulgaria

The Russian diplomat is expelled from Bulgaria on suspicion of espionage, Reuters reports, citing a representative of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry.

Bulgaria declared Russian diplomat persona non grata, accusing him of espionage He must leave the country within 72 hours, the republic’s Foreign Ministry said.

The Bulgarian authorities declared persona non grata on Friday after the country’s prosecutor’s office accused the military attaché at the Russian embassy in Sofia of espionage. He became the sixth Russian diplomat to be expelled from Bulgaria in the past two years. “The Russian diplomat, declared persona non grata, must leave Bulgaria within 72 hours,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said. As the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office clarified, a criminal case against the Russian was initiated “at the signal of the State National Security Agency <…> for a crime against the republic.” “A foreign citizen collected information that is a state secret in order to transfer to a foreign state,” the statement says. “From 2017 to the present, another citizen of the Russian Federation carried out intelligence activities, during which military information was collected, including on the number of US military personnel deployed in Bulgaria during the exercises,” the supervisory agency claims. The Bulgarian side reports that the Russian allegedly had contacts with a Bulgarian citizen who had access to classified information and paid for the transfer of this information to him. Due to the diplomatic status of the suspect in espionage, the criminal case was dropped, and the chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev officially notified the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria Yekaterina Zakharieva about the incident.

As the Russian Embassy clarified, a military, air force and naval attaché was declared persona non grata. “The groundless expulsion of the head of the representative office of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation does not contribute to the development of dialogue between our countries in the military sphere, as well as the strengthening of stability in the Black Sea region,” the diplomatic mission said in a statement. Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Anatoly Makarov, in a conversation with TASS, called the situation absurd. “The note from the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry declaring the military attaché persona non grata was handed over to us without further comment. We were told that our military attaché must leave the country within 72 hours. The situation looks absurd. It seems that by accusing Russian diplomats, the Bulgarian side is keeping a balance of certain interests, “- said Makarov. “We reserve the right to retaliate,” the diplomat added.

The Russian military attaché has become the sixth diplomat in the past two years to be expelled by the Bulgarian authorities on charges of espionage. On October 25, 2019, in Sofia, a Russian diplomat was suspected of working for the special services. He was deported, Russia acted in a mirror-like manner. On January 24, 2020, two more Russian diplomats were declared persona non grata in Bulgaria. The response of the Russian side was not reported then. On September 23, 2020, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry again announced the expulsion of two Russian diplomats due to accusations of collecting information about plans to modernize the Bulgarian army and support the technical readiness of military equipment. In response, Russia declared two employees of the Bulgarian embassy persona non grata.

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