Russian ambassador Anatoly Makarov has been handed a note by Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry giving two Russian embassy staff identified as involved in espionage 48 hours to leave the country.
The January 24 summoning of Makarov followed an announcement by the Prosecutor-General’s office that the two Russians had been involved in espionage, on issues related to Bulgaria’s electoral system and in the field of energy security, but pre-trial proceedings had been suspended because they had diplomatic immunity.
This is the second time in recent months that expulsion from Bulgaria of Russian embassy staff named as involved in spying has taken place. Russia retaliated in early December 2019 by expelling a Bulgarian diplomat from Moscow.
Bulgaria’s move has been backed by the embassies of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The Canadian embassy said: “We are concerned by information which has come to light concerning further acts of Russian espionage in Bulgaria. Canada supports the diplomatic and legal measures announced by Bulgarian authorities on January 23 and 24 to respond to, and protect against, foreign activities which undermine Bulgaria’s sovereignty, and threaten the safety and security of Bulgarian citizens”.
The British embassy said that it noted with interest the recent statement of the Bulgarian Prosecutor-General and the information provided by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria concerning further acts of Russian espionage on the territory of Bulgaria.
“The UK continues to support the ongoing proactive stance of Bulgaria to counter foreign malign actions which undermine its sovereignty. The UK supports the steps taken by the Bulgarian authorities to respond to this threat and safeguard its citizens, territory and national security.”
The Russian embassy confirmed that Makarov had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to be handed notes declaring an embassy diplomat persona non grata and a trade representative unacceptable in accordance with the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
No evidence had been submitted that the activities of the two were incompatible with their status, the Russian embassy said.
The staff would leave Bulgaria by the deadline indicated in the notes, it said.
“The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures. At the same time, we consider the decision of the Bulgarian authorities to disseminate this information in the public space before the official notification to the embassy is not consistent with the traditionally constructive spirit of relations between our states.”
(Photo: Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)