Russia, in response to the expulsion of diplomats from Bulgaria, declared two employees of the country’s embassy in Moscow persona non grata. They must leave the country within 72 hours. This was announced on Tuesday, April 20, at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“On April 20, Ambassador of Bulgaria Atanas Krystin was invited to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where he was handed a note from the ministry declaring persona non grata of the first secretary of the consular service of the Bulgarian embassy in Russia N. Panayotov and the first secretary of the service for trade and economic issues of the Bulgarian embassy in Russia Ch. Khristozova. These employees were ordered to leave the territory of the Russian Federation within 72 hours, ”the message says.
According to the statement of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this measure is a response to the unmotivated decision to declare two employees of the Russian Embassy in Sofia persona non grata, taken by the Bulgarian authorities in March 2021.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on March 22 notified the Russian embassy that the two Russian diplomats declared persona non grata have 72 hours to leave the country. According to the head of the Foreign Ministry of Bulgaria, Ekaterina Zakharieva, the Foreign Ministry received information from the prosecutor’s office that the Russians allegedly carry out activities incompatible with the Vienna Convention.
The Russian embassy in Sofia called the expulsion of Russian diplomats an unfounded demarche that would not contribute to a constructive dialogue between the countries.
On March 19, Bulgarian National Television reported that several people were detained in Sofia, suspected of spying for Russia. It was noted that as part of the operation, the police checked the documents of everyone leaving the city along the highway in the direction of Plovdiv. One of the suspects was detained on this very highway.
Later, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office told about the arrest of six employees of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry and the country’s military intelligence on suspicion of spying for Russia. Five of them were detained for 72 hours, one was released on bail.
The Russian Embassy in Sofia stressed that they hope for a “depoliticized, impartial and objective” trial against the detainees.