Bulgaria expels two Russian diplomats for spying

    Two Russian diplomats have been given 48 hours to leave Bulgaria, following investigations into espionage, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said on March 2.

    Earlier, the Prosecutor’s Office said that it had notified the Foreign Minister about espionage by a Russian diplomat.

    The Prosecutor’s Office also said that a Bulgarian reserve general who had participated in missions outside Bulgaria and was employed by the Defence Ministry had since 2016 been passing state secrets to an adviser at the Russian embassy in Sofia.

    The general has been taken into 72-hour custody and faces charges of espionage.

    On March 2, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and Cabinet spokesperson Lena Borislavova said that Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry in connection with the investigation into the Russian diplomat named by the Prosecutor’s Office.

    Mitrofanova had not come, but instead sent her deputy.

    Her deputy was handed two notes, one informing of the expulsion of the two diplomats, the other protesting against insulting language used against Bulgaria by the Russian embassy on social networks.

    Reports said that Mitrofanova did not come to the ministry because she was at the Shipka Monument, laying wreaths on the eve of Bulgaria’s national holiday, Liberation Day. The day commemorates Bulgaria’s liberation in the 19th century from Ottoman rule. Russian and Ukrainian soldiers, among others, played a key role in that liberation.

    Borislavova told a news conference after a regular Cabinet meeting: “We are reviewing the need to identify additional persons whose diplomatic status may be in question because they do not only perform diplomatic functions.”

    Since the beginning of the escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Bulgaria’s security services had stepped up their level of readiness, she said.

    “They are conducting inspections in all areas that are important for national security,” Borislavova said.

    Recent years have seen a number of expulsions of Russian diplomats from Bulgaria following allegations of espionage.

    In October 2019, a Russian diplomat was expelled for committing espionage, followed by two more in January 2020, and two more in September 2020 – to which Russia responded by expelling two Bulgarian diplomats in October 2020.

    Another Russian diplomat was expelled in December 2020, and another in April 2021. In the latter case, the Kremlin again responded by expelling a Bulgarian diplomat.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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