Bulgaria announced on Friday that it was expelling the first secretary of the Russian embassy in Sofia on suspicion of involvement in espionage. The move comes two weeks after ten other Russian diplomats were expelled.

He must leave the country within 72 hours, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.

The prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation against the diplomat for “unregulated intelligence activities, probably in favor of the Russian Federation,” a statement said.

Earlier in the day, the prosecutor’s office had announced suspicions of “two officials of the national security agency” and an agent of the ministry “for allegedly providing information by technical means” to Moscow. Bulgaria has already expelled ten Russian diplomats on March 18th.

Dozens of expulsions of Russian diplomats from the United States, the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, the Baltic States and Eastern Europe have taken place since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Bulgaria has traditionally maintained close relations with Russia, especially in the areas of culture and energy. But since October 2019, a series of espionage scandals have caused tensions, which have intensified since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. In all, about 20 diplomats and a technical assistant at the Russian embassy were declared persona non grata.

Sofia recently recalled her ambassador to Moscow for consultations to protest allegations made by the Russian representative in Bulgaria about the war in Ukraine.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has said he expects Moscow to take similar measures.

Editor: Adrian Dumitru

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