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Bulgaria expels Russian diplomat on suspicion of espionage

Source : 112 Ukraine

The Russian side reserved the right to retaliate
22:01, 19 December 2020

Open source

Bulgaria has given a Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country after prosecutors alleged he had been involved in espionage since 2017, the foreign ministry reported according to Reuters.

The Russian diplomat is the sixth to be expelled by NATO member Bulgaria since October 2019 for suspected espionage.

Russia’s embassy in Sofia said in a statement that the expulsion of its military attache was groundless and that Moscow reserved the right to respond.

“The unreasonable expulsion of the head of the representation of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation does not contribute to the development of dialogue between our countries in the military sphere or to the strengthening of stability in the Black Sea region,” it said.

Bulgarian prosecutors said the Russian diplomat had been seeking sensitive military information, including on the number of U.S. troops deployed in Bulgaria during military drills.

Related: Crisis in Bulgaria: Who struggles for power in most corrupt EU country

Prosecutors said they had evidence that the diplomat had been in contact with a Bulgarian citizen with access to classified information to whom money had been offered.

After the announcement of the expulsion, the U.S. and British embassies in Sofia expressed support for Bulgaria’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and security.

Earlier this month, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said Moscow was concerned by growing NATO activity in the Black Sea. She said NATO military drill scenarios included possible attacks on Russian territory, while infrastructure was being upgraded and weapons deployed in Bulgaria and Romania.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has dismissed such concerns but has confirmed that Bulgaria is upgrading its airports to host eight new F-16 fighter jets it bought from the United States. It has also ordered two new patrol ships to replace ageing Soviet-era vessels to improve its compliance with NATO standards.

In the Communist times, Bulgaria was Moscow’s most reliable ally in eastern Europe. Despite periodic strains in post-communist ties, Russia remains Bulgaria’s biggest energy supplier and the two countries retain close cultural and other links.

Related: European Strategy: Why Bulgaria closed EU doors for North Macedonia?

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