Two Russian diplomats accused of espionage

Moscow's officials declared persona non grata, have 72 hours to leave Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared two Russian diplomats to Sofia persona non grata, the ministry announced on 23 September. The Russian embassy has been notified via an official note. The two diplomats have 72 hours to leave the country.

Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received a letter from the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Bulgaria stating that the pretrial proceedings against the two Russian diplomats, who collected information classified as state secret with the purpose of turning it over to a foreign state or organisation, was being suspended.

Over the course of the investigation, it was established that between 2016 and the present time two citizens of the Russian Federation were involved in intelligence operations, seeking information on Bulgaria's plans to modernise its army and the maintenance of its military equipment. Their goal was to hand the information gathered, which represented state and company secrets, to the Russian military intelligence in Moscow. For them to be able to carry out their illegal activities, the two diplomats established communication with Bulgarian citizens with access to information concerning the military industrial complex of Bulgaria. In certain instances, the Bulgarian citizens were promised and given financial incentives.

The pretrial proceedings against the two Russian citizens have been suspended as they have diplomatic immunity. Acting within its competence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria took the necessary steps under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

This is not the first case of Russian diplomats getting expelled from Bulgaria on the grounds of espionage this year. In January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented the Russian ambassador to Sofia with a note insisting that two other Russian diplomats, accused by the Prosecutor's Office of espionage, leave Bulgaria within 48 hours. One was gathering intelligence about the election process and the other about the energy industry. In 2019, the first secretary of the Russian Federation's embassy in Sofia was incriminated in espionage as well.

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