Bulgaria will expel 70 employees of Russian diplomatic missions, the country’s Prime Minister Kirill Petkov told journalists on Tuesday, claiming that many of the staff members worked “for foreign intelligence services.”
The prime minister refused to provide any further details about the decision, citing confidentiality.
“I can say that a large part of [the diplomats] have worked for foreign intelligence services and their diplomatic role was just a cover,” Petkov said.
He stressed that the measure should not be considered an act of aggression against the Russian people.
“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 prime minister said that all the diplomats would leave on the same plane on Sunday.
A spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Sofia told the TASS news agency that among those being expelled are the mission’s deputy head Filip Voskresensky, as well as the heads of the consulates general in the cities of Varna and Ruse, and the director of the Russian cultural and information center. The consulate general in Ruse remains without any diplomats or technical staff, while the one in Varna is almost without staff, the embassy’s spokesperson said.
The diplomatic mission later announced that the consular department of the embassy and the consulate general in Varna are suspending operations, while the consulate general in Ruse is closing.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the Bulgarian authorities’ actions would be met with “an appropriate response.”
The ‘diplomatic war’ between the West and Russia has significantly intensified since the launch of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine in late February.
In March, Bulgaria expelled twelve Russian diplomats, accusing them of violating the Vienna Convention.
In late April, the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed that since the launch of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine on February 24, around 400 diplomats have been expelled from 28 countries. Russia views the expulsions as “unfriendly” actions, or, in the words of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as acts of “boorishness.”
Moscow has previously warned that it would retaliate against all such moves.