Bulgaria’s outgoing PM rejects Russia’s ultimatum over expulsion of diplomats

Bulgaria’s outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on July 1 that he would not change the decision to expel 70 Russian diplomats and officials, rejecting an ultimatum from Moscow that it would break off diplomatic relations with Bulgaria unless he did so.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said on June 30 that Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova had handed over a note verbale that “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.”

In a televised address shortly before 12pm on July 1, Petkov said: “We will not allow foreign diplomats to give an ultimatum to the Bulgarian state until 12 noon”.

GERB leader and former Prime Minister Boiko Borissov expressed support at a news conference on July 1 for the expulsion, while on the same morning, Bulgarian Socialist Party leader and deputy PM in the outgoing government Kornelia Ninova fiercely attacked it.

Borissov said that the government should not retreat: “It has our full support”.

“Otherwise, this would mean capitulation, a renunciation of sovereignty. And we shouldn’t do that,” Borissov said.

“We support the actions of the Bulgarian government, the actions they have taken because they were elected by the people. We would do this another way without breaking diplomatic relations or without putting ourselves in this situation. But this [government] is what the people have chosen, and we support it,” he said.

“The note and the ultimatum from Moscow are insulting to our government. I am offended as a Bulgarian. We must support them,” Borissov said.

Ninova, speaking in Parliament, said that Petkov should immediately say that he would not be his party’s candidate Prime Minister. She was speaking before Petkov made just such an announcement in his televised address.

She called on President Roumen Radev to immediately fire the head of the State Agency for National Security for compiling the list of diplomats, called for the dismissal of the deputy foreign minister who signed the note on the expulsions, and called on outgoing Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska to revoke the note.

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