Bulgaria summons Russian ambassador over Kremlin’s warrant for Bulgarian journalist

Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Sofia in connection with reports that the Kremlin has put Bulgarian investigative journalist Hristo Grozev on a Russian federal wanted list, Bulgarian National Television said on December 27, citing the ministry.

The meeting is to take place on the first working day after the holidays – meaning, December 29 – according to the report.

Russian agency Tass said on December 26 that Grozev had been put on the Russian national wanted list because of supposedly “violating an article of the Criminal Code of Russia”.

Grozev, responding on Twitter on December 26, said: “A general comment: I have no idea on what grounds the Kremlin has put me on its ‘wanted list’, thus I cannot provide any comments at this time. In a way it doesn’t matter – for years they’ve made it clear they are scared of our work and would stop at nothing to make it go away.”

The report led to a call by Boiko Borissov, leader of the GERB-UDF coalition, for Mitrofanova to be summoned by the Foreign Ministry for an explanation, while the We Continue the Change party said that on Parliament’s first working day, it would propose calling the caretaker Foreign Minister for a hearing on the matter.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms said: “The Bulgarian state must categorically protect its citizens and insists on clarifying the case of the journalist Hristo Grozev. The Foreign Minister must react immediately”.

The Democratic Bulgaria coalition said that it had tabled a parliamentary question to the caretaker Foreign Minister asking whether the ministry would summon Mitrofanova.

Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev said that in Bulgaria, criminal prosecution of investigative journalists because of their work was “out of the question”.

The Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria called for an immediate reaction for the country’s authorities, and said: “It is within the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria to seek information and to protest against the actions to the Russian ambassador”.

Yordan Tsalov, a colleague of Grozev’s, told Nova Televizia that it was possible that Russia would issue an Interpol “red notice” for Grozev.

“This is one of the means that Moscow uses to harass those with whom it does not agree. It is quite possible that this will also be applied against Hristo Grozev,” Tsalov said.

“We are all citizens of the EU. I do not believe that his rights will not be protected in Europe. However, traveling abroad will become more and more difficult, which is probably the goal of Russia,” he said.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said that at the meeting with Mitrofanova, also to be discussed were the ban on studying the Bulgarian language in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, as well as the Russian occupiers’ removal of portraits of Bulgarian historical figures.

(Screenshot of Mitrofanova: BNT)

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