Russian ambassador to Bulgaria threatens embassy closure after staff expulsion

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said on June 30 that Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova has asked Bulgaria to withdraw its expulsion of 70 Russian diplomatic and technical staff or face the potential closure of the Russian embassy in Sofia.

The ministry statement said that Mitrofanova’s verbal note “in ultimatum terms requested the withdrawal, by 12pm on July 1, of the expulsion orders of the staff of Russian foreign representations declared persona non grata.”

According to the ministry’s statement, Mitrofanova said that if Bulgarian authorities did not do so, “the question would be immediately raised with Russian leadership concerning the closure of the embassy of the Russian Federation in Bulgaria.”

Bulgaria’s outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on June 28 that the embassy staff being expelled had carried activities “uncharacteristic” for their official positions and “worked against the interests of Bulgaria.”

Following the Foreign Ministry’s announcement, Petkov said in a media statement that the Russian embassy still had the “opportunity to keep 43 staff”, a significantly higher number than the 12 staff at the Bulgarian embassy in Moscow.

Petkov called on the Russian embassy to withdraw its request, but made no further mention of the reason why the Russian embassy staff were being expelled.

Russia has already announced its intention to shut down consulates in Sofia, Varna and Rousse following the expulsion notice, which also triggered a number of recriminations between rival political camps in domestic politics.

(Photo: Russia’s embassy in Sofia)

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