11.08.2022

Russia Expels Bulgarian Diplomat in Tit-for-Tat Response

Russia on Monday said that it had expelled a Bulgarian diplomat in a tit-for-tat response after the EU and NATO member state declared a Russian military attache persona non-grata earlier this month.

The Foreign Ministry said in response to the “unjustified” removal of its diplomat from Bulgaria, it had declared the assistant to Bulgaria’s military attache “persona non-grata,” giving him 72 hours to leave Russia.

Bulgaria earlier this month expelled the Russian military attache after prosecutors opened a probe against him for spying on U.S. troops based in the country.

It was the sixth case of a Russian diplomat or embassy official being expelled by what was once one of Moscow’s most staunch allies over spying allegations since October 2019.

Moscow in October declared two Bulgarian diplomats persona non-grata after Sofia expelled two Russians on accusations of spying for the military.

The latest espionage row has soured relations between the two former allies, which have maintained their close cultural, historical and economic ties even after Bulgaria’s communist regime fell in 1989.

The NATO member state is home to a joint-use U.S. military training ground and U.S. troops also use two Bulgarian air bases, as well as a storage site.

A former Warsaw Pact ally of Moscow, Bulgaria in recent years has also hosted a number of U.S.-led and NATO exercises.

Russia Expels 2 Bulgarian Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat Move

Russia said on Monday it was expelling two Bulgarian diplomats in a tit-for-tat move after two Russians were ordered out of the EU country on accusations of spying for the military.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Bulgarian ambassador Atanas Krystin was summoned to be informed that the two Moscow-based diplomats had been declared “personae non gratae.”

“This step is a tit-for-tat ‘retaliatory’ response to an unwarranted decision of the Bulgarian authorities to expel from the country in September two representatives of Russia’s trade mission in Sofia,” the ministry said.

In September, Bulgaria said it had expelled the two Russians on accusations of spying on the military.

Moscow at the time said it viewed the decision as a “deliberate attempt to harm constructive Russia-Bulgaria cooperation.”

The Bulgarian public prosecutor alleged the Russians had been seeking out classified information on military modernization plans since 2016.

The controversy is likely to worsen traditionally warm but now fraying relations between the two countries after last year saw the ejection of three other Russian diplomats over allegations of obtaining classified information.

A former Warsaw Pact ally of Moscow, Bulgaria’s military retains military hardware dating from that era and is now modernising to conform with NATO guidelines after joining the Western alliance in 2004.

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