Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has called a special meeting of the Cabinet security council for March 30, to conduct a hearing of Boiko Kotzev, the country’s ambassador recalled from Moscow for consultations in connection with the poisoning in the UK of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
The Cabinet security council is headed by the Prime Minister, and includes members of the government, heads of special services and a representative of the President.
Arriving at Sofia Airport on the night of March 28, Kotzev refused to comment on the subject.
Bulgaria recalled its ambassador from Moscow for consultations, but has made no announcement of a decision on whether or not to expel Russian diplomats, a step taken by numerous countries in response to the nerve agent poisoning of the Skripals, for which the UK blames Moscow. In Bulgaria, there is serious division within the ruling coalition over the question of expelling Russian diplomats.
On March 29, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, leader of the parliamentary group of Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, said that the issue of expelling Russian diplomats would be discussed by council of the governing coalition.
Tsvetanov, commenting on head of state President Roumen Radev’s statement the day before that the recall of the ambassador from Moscow had not been agreed with him, said that Radev should read the constitution, which put such matters in the hands of the executive, not those of the president. Radev had told reporters that the decision was one by the executive, and it was up to it to motivate it.
In Parliament on March 29, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party repeated its call, for the second day running, for Borissov to come to the National Assembly to explain why Bulgaria’s ambassador in Moscow had been recalled.
Tsvetanov said that he doubted Borissov would be able to come to Parliament because he had a very busy schedule on March 29.
Russia’s ambassador in Sofia, Anatoly Makarov, said on March 28 that the decision by Bulgaria to recall his counterpart in Moscow did not worry him, adding that he saw Bulgaria’s position as “very reasonable…namely the decision by your Prime Minister first to obtain evidence and then to make a decision, not the other way around”.
Local media quoted US ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin as seeing in the Bulgarian reaction support for Western countries.
“I think the united response of the United States, the EU and other countries around the world is a sign of the seriousness of this situation, and I think the most important thing is to give a clear sign that our countries are together in support of the UK, and the response here, in Bulgaria, also expresses support,” Rubin said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev said that Bulgaria was in solidarity with the UK. He said that further facts and evidence were needed before Bulgaria could reach a decision on whether to expel Russian diplomats. Recalling the ambassador from Moscow was standard procedure in such situations, Georgiev said.
Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, a co-leader of the United Patriots, the grouping of far-right and nationalist parties that is the minority partner in Borissov’s Cabinet, described Bulgaria’s position on the Skripal case as “decent and balanced”.
Volen Siderov, another of the co-leaders of the United Patriots and known for his pro-Russian views, said on March 28 that the coalition council should be convened and presented with complete information so that the correct decision could be made.
“I know that there is pressure from outside, but no sudden moves should be made,” Siderov said.