Moscow Blasts Sofia for Expelling Two Russian Embassy Officers, US, UK Embassies Commend Bulgaria's Action
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Russia regards this step by the Bulgarian authorities as "openly unfriendly and provocative, and at odds with constructive relations between Russia and Bulgaria and the traditional mutually respectful bilateral ties". Also, Bulgaria did not present any reasonable evidence to support the decision.
Moscow reserves the right to take retaliatory steps.
The comment comes a day after Russia's Ambassador in Sofia Anatoly Makarov was summoned to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry to receive notes by which a First Secretary at the Embassy was declared a persona non grata and a member of the mission's technical staff was declared not acceptable. The move is based on information received at the Foreign Ministry from the Specialized Prosecution Office and the State Agency for National Security that the First Secretary had gathered information on the mechanisms of the election process in Bulgaria while the trade representative had gathered intelligence information on Bulgaria's energy sector and energy security, which was later sent to the headquarters of the Russian intelligence service in Moscow. The two were given 48 hours to leave the country.
The US Embassy issued a statement saying that it commended "recent actions of the Bulgarian government to defend the country's independence and sovereignty from malign influence". The Embassy specifically mentions the January 24 announcement of the expulsion of two Russian Embassy officers for espionage and the January 23 announcement of charges against three Russian citizens for attempting to poison a prominent arms trader, his son and a third person. "We support the long-term efforts of the agencies involved in investigating and exposing violations of Bulgarian law. Bulgaria is a strong NATO ally and EU partner and has an unalienable right to define its own future," says the US Embassy.
It further notes that "the Government of Bulgaria has produced evidence of Russia-supported malign activities occurring within the territory of Bulgaria over a number of years".