The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria has declared a military, air and naval attaché at the Russian Embassy in Sofia persona non grata. The diplomat was given 72 hours to leave the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has denied all allegations and called the expulsion of its military attaché groundless.

“The unreasonable expulsion of the head of the representation of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation does not contribute to the development of dialogue between our countries in the military sphere or to the strengthening of stability in the Black Sea region,” it said.

At the same time, the Bulgarian side reports that the pre-trial proceedings have established that the Russian diplomat was collecting information that is a state secret.

During the pre-trial proceedings, the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office established that the diplomat had been conducting intelligence activities since 2017, in particular, gathering information about the U.S. military who took part in military exercises in Bulgaria. According to the investigation, the Russian promised a monetary reward to a Bulgarian citizen who had access to classified information. As the suspect enjoys immunity, the pre-trial proceedings were terminated.

In 2020, this is the third high-profile spy scandal between Sofia and Moscow.

In January, Bulgaria expelled two Russian diplomats on suspicion of espionage, namely the first secretary of the Department of Consular Services of the Russian Embassy and an employee of the Russian trade mission. According to the Bulgarian authorities, the Russians collected information on the mechanisms of the electoral process in the Republic, as well as data on energy.

In September, the Bulgarian police began pre-trial proceedings on espionage charges against two Russian diplomats. The investigation believes that since 2016, the Russians have been collecting information for Russian military intelligence about plans to modernise the Bulgarian army, intentions to purchase drones, as well as about the capabilities and resources for the maintenance of American F-16 fighters.

Bohdan Marusyak

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