Two Russian aircraft were expected at Sofia Airport on July 3 to fly out 70 Russian diplomats, officials and their families after the envoys and staff were ordered expelled from Bulgaria.
The expulsions were issued on the grounds of some being a threat to Bulgaria’s national security, while the move is also intended to reduce Russian embassy staff to a proportion appropriate to the number of Bulgarians at the country’s embassy in Moscow. The Russians were given a July 3 deadline to leave Bulgaria.
Bulgarian National Radio said that the two Russian flights were scheduled for 3pm and 3.30pm, and would transport more than 100 people.
Bulgarian aviation authorities gave special permission for the flights, required because of EU sanctions – imposed because of Russia’s war on Ukraine – that bar Russian flights from the bloc’s air space.
After the Russians leave, the complement at the country’s embassy in Sofia will be cut from about 130, to 23 diplomats and 25 administrative and technical staff.
Outgoing Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on June 28 that 70 Russian diplomats had been declared persona non grata in Bulgaria.
“We are expelling 70 Russian diplomats. Anyone who works for foreign interests will be called on to return to the country they came from,” said Petkov, who congratulated Bulgaria’s security services for their good work.
Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova tried to block the expulsions, giving Bulgaria’s government an “ultimatum” of noon on July 1 to revoke the expulsion order. That “ultimatum” was rejected by Petkov.
Mitrofanova said on July 1 that she was recommending closing the Russian embassy. The Kremlin said later than day that the proposal had been referred to Russia’s Foreign Ministry for consideration.
Within Bulgaria’s outgoing ruling coalition, the expulsion has been described as welcome but belated by Democratic Bulgaria, which for months also has called for the expulsion of Mitrofanova because of her insulting and inappropriate behaviour towards Bulgaria, its government and people.
At the same time, the expulsion irked outgoing ruling coalition partner the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which called for it to be revoked and which suspended talks with Petkov’s We Continue the Change party on a possible new coalition government, until its demand that Petkov not be proposed as the head of that government was met.
(Archive photo: Rui Caldeira/sxc.hu)
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