Spy wars: Bulgaria expels Russian diplomat, third time this year

23:45, 18.12.20 – UNIAN

The Russian is believed to have been engaged in military intelligence gathering, including on the U.S. troops deployed in the country during exercises.

Bulgaria’s foreign ministry has declared a Russian diplomat persona non grata, giving him 72 hours to leave country over what’s reported as actions incompatible with his diplomatic status.

That’s according to European Pravda citing a Bulgarian state news agency BGNES.

The ministry has handed the relevant note to the deputy head of the diplomatic mission, who had been summoned earlier.

The ministry’s statement comes after the chief prosecutor told the interior minister on Thursday about the evidence gathered in the espionage case targeting the Russian diplomat.

The diplomatic position of the Russian citizen in question has not been specified, while Russian media claim the expelled diplomat was in fact the embassy’s military attaché.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva received a letter from Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev who elaborated on pre-trial proceedings. Among other things, it was established how the diplomat had been collecting information constituting a state secret.

Due to the fact that the suspect enjoys immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the pre-trial proceedings were terminated.

The prosecutor’s office clarified that the Russian diplomat had been gathering military intelligence, including on the U.S. troops deployed in Bulgaria during exercises.

The diplomat had been in contact with an identified Bulgarian national with access to the relevant classified information, and promised the latter a financial reward for handing over such info.

Diplomatic wars: Bulgaria vs Russia

  • In September 2020, pre-trial proceedings began in Bulgaria on espionage charges against two Russian diplomats. The investigation believes that since 2016, the Russians have been gathering sensitive information for Russian military intelligence on Bulgarian army modernization plans and technical state of military equipment.
  • In January 2020, two Russian diplomats suspected of espionage were expelled from Bulgaria: first secretary of the consular department and an employee with the Russian trade mission. According to the Bulgarian authorities, the Russians had been gathering intelligence on the mechanisms of the electoral process, as well as data on the energy sector.
  • In October 2019, Bulgaria expelled another first secretary of the Russian embassy, ​​suspected of espionage.

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