EU, Nato back Bulgaria in row with Russia over expulsion of diplomats

The European Union regrets the unjustified threat of the Russian Federation to sever diplomatic ties with Bulgaria in response to Bulgaria’s decision, fully in line with international law, to expel 70 Russian embassy staff who were acting in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the European External Action Service (EEAS) said on July 1.

“The European Union stands in full support and solidarity with Bulgaria in these circumstances and will follow this matter closely,” the EEAS said.

“Such a disproportionate step by Russia would only serve to further isolate it internationally,” it said.

A spokesperson for Nato said on July 1: “Bulgaria’s decision to expel 70 Russian personnel as foreign agents is a sovereign decision which must be respected.

“Nato Allies strongly condemn Russia’s long-standing pattern of coercive behaviour, attempts to interfere in our democratic processes and institutions and to target the security of its citizens,” the spokesperson said.

“We stand in solidarity with our Ally Bulgaria,” the statement said.

In a message on Twitter, James Cleverly, UK Minister of State of the United Kingdom for Europe and North America, said: “The UK welcomes Bulgaria’s decisive action to expel 70 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers. We stand with #Bulgaria as it takes further steps to protect its sovereignty and security from Russian hostile activity”.

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 noon on July 1, outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov rejected the ultimatum.


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