SOFIA (Reuters) -Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said on Friday it has declared one Russian diplomat “persona non grata” and given him 72 hours to leave the Balkan country over accusations of spying.
The expulsion comes amid strained relations between Russia and Bulgaria, Moscow’s closest ally during the Cold War but now a European Union and NATO member state that has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Bulgaria expelled 12 Russian diplomats last month over what it said were activities incompatible with their diplomatic status and has called back its ambassador from Moscow for consultations over “undiplomatic, sharp and rude” comments of the Russian ambassador to Sofia.
The foreign ministry said it was informed by prosecutors that an unnamed diplomat, accredited as first secretary at the Russian embassy in Sofia, had been involved in unregulated intelligence activity.
Earlier on Friday prosecutors said they were also investigating two officials of Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security and a government official for allegedly spying for Russia.
Russian embassy representatives were not immediately available for comment. It previously called the accusations about the expelled diplomats unfounded and said the move would hurt bilateral relations.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia TsolovaEditing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O’Brien)