Bulgaria names Russian diplomat persona non grata for spying on military

Bulgaria has given a Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country after it was established that he had sought state secrets about the military, including the number of US personnel deployed in Bulgaria during military exercises, according to statements on December 18 by Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry and Prosecutor’s Office.

This is the third time in 2020 that Bulgaria has expelled Russian diplomats for military espionage.

The Prosecutor’s Office said that after receiving information from the State Agency for National Security, the Special Prosecutor’s Office had instituted pre-trial proceedings under the Penal Code against a foreign national who had gathered state secrets to pass them on to a foreign state.

The investigation found that from 2017 to the present, “yet another” Russian citizen had carried out intelligence activities regarding the Bulgarian military, with the purpose of passing the information on to Russian military intelligence in Moscow.

The person in question had made contact with a Bulgarian citizen who had access to the information, who was promised and delivered money, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

However, the diplomat had immunity under the Vienna Convention from prosecution. The pre-trial proceedings were suspended and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev notified the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had informed the Russian embassy in a formal note that the diplomat had been declared persona non grata and given 72 hours to leave the country.

The Russian embassy identified the diplomat in question as its military attache and said that the “unfounded expulsion does not contribute to the development of dialogue between our countries in the military area.” It said that the Russian side reserved the right to “retaliatory measures.”

Bulgaria previously expelled two Russian diplomats in September and another two in January, also for espionage. Before that, in October 2019, it declared the first secretary of the Russian embassy persona non grata for alleged espionage.

(Photo: Bulgarian Foreign Ministry)

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