site.btaUPDATED Bulgaria to Expel 70 Diplomats from Russian Embassy in Sofia

Bulgaria to Expel 70 Diplomats from Russian Embassy in Sofia
Bulgaria to Expel 70 Diplomats from Russian Embassy in Sofia
Russian Embassy in Sofia (BTA Photo)

Bulgaria will expel 70 diplomats from the Russian Federation's Embassy in Sofia, outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told journalists in Parliament on Tuesday evening. 

"I would like to tell all foreign countries, not just Russia, that anyone who works against Bulgaria's interests will be expelled back to the country they came from," Petkov said. 

The outgoing Prime Minister did not give any details about the activities the diplomats were involved in, because the information is confidential. 

"I can say that a large part of them have worked for foreign [intelligence] services and their diplomatic role was just a cover," Petkov said.

Petkov congratulated the Bulgarian [security] services and the Foreign Ministry for a job well done. He explained that the 70 diplomats in question have taken on various official roles at the Russian Embassy and were involved in activities inconsistent with their diplomatic positions. 

This is in now way aggression against the Russian people – we have nothing against them. It's just that when foreign governments are trying to work and meddle in Bulgaria's internal affairs, we have institutions designated to counter this type of activities. […] And on Sunday, we expect a full 70-seat airplane to fly back to Moscow," Petkov said. 

Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister and Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova responded in a Facebook post by saying that her party firmly opposes the decision to expel 70 Russian diplomats. "The decision to expel 70 Russian diplomats is an unprecedented act for Bulgarian diplomacy, which will have long-term consequences. It [the decision] was not made by the Council of Ministers, nor during a coalition council. BSP categorically disagrees with this decision, [regardless] by whom or where it was made," Ninova says. 

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said later on Tuesday that Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova has been presented a list of the 70 names of the Russian Embassy's staff, who must leave this country by midnight on July 3. 

Deputy Foreign Minister Irena Dimitrova has summoned Mitrofanova on Tuesday. 

Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova was informed about the Bulgarian side's decision to reduce the number of staff of the Russian representations in the Republic of Bulgaria to numbers not exceeding the number of Bulgarian representations in the Russian Federation. The number should be kept up to 23 diplomatic and 25 administrative-technical staff, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said. 

There are two reasons for Bulgaria's demand – the reciprocity, based on Art. 11 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The size of missions may be kept within limits considered to be reasonable and normal given the current state of bilateral relations. The other reason is that the competent Bulgarian authorities have deemed the Russian staff's activity incompatible with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which aims to develop friendly relations between states. An activity deemed by the relevant institutions as a national security threat, based on which they are declared persona non grata, the Foreign Ministry here said. 

The verbal notice to Ambassador Mitrofanova further states the Bulgarian side's expectations that Russia will temporarily close its Consulate General in the Danubian city of Ruse, while Bulgaria will temporarily close its Consulate in Yekaterinburg. 

Russia's TASS news agency quoted sources from the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying that Russia will respond to Bulgaria's decision to expel 70 Russian diplomats. "Russia will respond to this step, taken by Bulgaria," the source is quoted as saying. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry's Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told the Russia-1 state-owned TV channel that the decision to expel Russian diplomats from Bulgaria has come from abroad. 

"Everyone in the political circles in Bulgaria is behind these decisions, they're destroying the political relations and are, certainly, doing it against the will of the Bulgarian people," Zakharova said. 

TASS also quoted the Russian Embassy in Bulgaria as saying that the consular service in Sofia and the Consulate General in Varna are suspending operations, while the Consulate General in Ruse closes for a moth due to the lack of staff resulting from the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats.

/MY/

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By 10:53 on 03.10.2022 Today`s news

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