Russian ambassador will not be invited to opening of Bulgaria’s new Parliament

Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova and the chargé d’affaires of the embassy of Belarus Nikita Leshukov will not be invited to the October 19 first sitting of Bulgaria’s recently-elected 48th National Assembly, it was decided at a special meeting of representatives of parliamentary groups on October 13.

The meeting lasted 40 minutes, with the Democratic Bulgaria coalition, We Continue the Change (WCC), GERB-UDF and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms opposing the Russian and Belarusian envoys being invited to the first sitting.

Democratic Bulgaria’s Nadezhda Yordanova, who first raised the issue at a meeting of representatives of parliamentary groups earlier this week, said that she was extremely satisfied that the majority of political parties in the 48th National Assembly wanted Mitrofanova and Leshukov not to receive invitations.

Pro-Russian party Vuzrazhdane, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Stefan Yanev’s Bulgaria Ascending did not support the exclusion of Mitrofanova and Leshukov.

“Russia is an aggressor country that attacked a sovereign state, its neighbour,” Yordanova said, referring to Ukraine. “Bulgaria strongly condemns this act,” she said.

Responding to a question about the protocol involved, Yordanova said that there were no written rules and no mandatory invitation list.

“It is the judgment of the host country who will be invited.”

She said that parliamentary officials would notify the Foreign Ministry which diplomats to invite, with the Russian and Belarusian envoys not on the list.

WCC’s Andrei Gyurov, arriving for the October 13 meeting, told reporters that Mitrofanova had no place at the opening ceremony of Parliament.

Asked if WCC would take their seats in the House if Mitrofanova was present, Gyurov said: “Our place, not hers, is in the hall”.

Movement for Rights and Freedoms MP Hamid Hamid said: “There is no place for Mrs Mitrofanova at the meeting”.

On arrival for the meeting, Bulgaria Ascending’s Georgi Samandov told reporters: “The invitation is not personal, it is to the entire diplomatic corps. The entire diplomatic corps is invited”.

Bulgarian National Television reported Vuzrazhdane as saying that “these actions would spoil Bulgaria’s relations with Russia”.

Georgi Svilenski of the Bulgarian Socialist Party said that the party’s position was “that the state protocol should be followed and all ambassadors, including Mrs Mitrofanova, should be present”.

GERB-UDF’s Dessislava Atanassova said that in the Russian and Belarusian envoys not being invited “the Euro-Atlantic majority has prevailed”.

“We, as a country, have been declared an enemy country by the Russian Federation, although the Russian ambassador has neither been declared persona non grata nor has there been any other consequences,” Atanassova said.

“I do not expect any serious deterioration of relations between the two countries, but I believe that Bulgaria must protect its national interest. Bulgaria’s national interest is to defend European values,” she said.

“We are part of the European Union and as a worthy and loyal member we are aware of which side we should be on in this war, we choose the side of Ukraine and say ‘no’ to aggression, ‘no’ to war,” Atanassova said. 

There had been mixed messages from GERB, which initially stated a position against Mitrofanova being present, which was contradicted by one of its MPs, Vezdhi Rashidov, who said that excluding her would be “a declaration of war”. Subsequently, GERB leader Boiko Borissov said that if Mitrofanova was present, his group – which won the largest share of seats in the October 2 early parliamentary elections – would boycott the sitting.

(Screenshot of Mitrofanova from a video posted by the Russian embassy)

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