Russia reserves the right to retaliate after the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Bulgaria. This is stated in the statement of the Russian embassy, published on Facebook.
The diplomatic mission specified that on January 24, the Russian ambassador was invited to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, where he was handed notes on the announcement of the diplomat of the embassy, as well as an employee of the sales office by persons non grata. No evidence was presented by diplomats of activities incompatible with their status, the embassy added.
“The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures. At the same time, we consider the decision of the Bulgarian authorities to disseminate this information in public space before the embassy’s official notification is not consistent with the traditionally constructive spirit of relations between our states, ”the embassy noted, adding that the staff will leave the country on the dates indicated in the notes.
The Bulgarian prosecutor’s office said earlier that the country's national security agency provided information on the basis of which Russians are suspected of carrying out “espionage activities,” RIA Novosti reported. The ministry claims that the Russian diplomat allegedly had been conducting intelligence activities since 2017, and the second suspect, who worked in a trade mission, since October 2018. According to the Bulgarian side, one of them allegedly collected information on the mechanisms of the electoral process in the country, the second - data on energy security.
The case against the Russians, according to the prosecutor's office, was closed due to the fact that they have diplomatic immunity.
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- © Dimitar DILKOFF
The head of the international committee of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, commenting on the situation, said that Moscow should respond to the actions of Bulgaria.
“In such cases, the principle of mirroring is almost absolute, and exceptions from it are absolutely exclusive. I don’t see any reason to abandon this principle in this case, ”said the senator.
In turn, the ex-head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Bulgaria Rumen Petkov expressed surprise at the allegations against the Russians, calling them "ridiculous and paradoxical." He also added that it is normal for a diplomat to be interested in legislation on the election procedure in the state, as well as prospects for energy projects, as this is his job.
“It is absolutely normal when a Russian diplomat is interested in Bulgaria’s energy projects and their prospects, the main cooperation between our countries takes place in this area,” Petkova quotes TASS.
He recalled that Bulgaria forgets the principle of a mirror response, because of which Bulgarian diplomats will be forced to leave Moscow, which will affect their careers.
At the end of October 2019, Bulgaria also expelled a Russian diplomat, saying that he was suspected of intelligence activities. The Russian Foreign Ministry has promised to take retaliatory measures. December 5, Moscow, based on the principles of reciprocity, declared persona non grata an employee of the Bulgarian embassy.
A similar incident occurred in early December in Germany. The German Foreign Ministry declared non-grata two employees of the Russian embassy amid the investigation into the murder of a Georgian citizen in Berlin in August 2019. On suspicion of this murder, a Russian citizen was detained, who, according to German media reports, allegedly could have been involved in the Russian special services.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, commenting on the situation at a press conference in Paris following the meeting of the "Norman Four," explained that the murdered Georgian native - Zelimkhan Khangoshvili - was wanted in Russia for involvement in the Moscow metro bombings. Putin also indicated that Moscow was not involved in his murder.
“This person was wanted by us, and a very tough and bloody person. In only one of the actions in which he took part, 98 people were killed by him. He was one of the organizers of the explosions in the Moscow metro. I do not know what happened to him, this is a gangster environment, and anything can happen there. But I believe that only on the basis of preliminary considerations is it incorrect to expel diplomats who have nothing to do with it, ”Putin emphasized.