(DF) Moscow Blasts Sofia for Expelling Two Russian Embassy Officers, US, UK Embassies Commend Bulgaria’s Action

January 25 (BTA) – The Russian Foreign Ministry Saturday blasted Bulgaria for expelling two Russian embassy officers for espionage the previous day, and called the move provocative. On the opposite pole, the embassies of the US and the UK commended Sofia’s actions. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Russia regards this step by the Bulgarian authorities as “openly unfriendly and provocative, and at odds with constructive relations between Russia and Bulgaria and the traditional mutually respectful bilateral ties”. Also, Bulgaria did not present any reasonable evidence to support the decision. Moscow reserves the right to take retaliatory steps. The comment comes a day after Russia’s Ambassador in Sofia Anatoly Makarov was summoned to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry to receive notes by which a First Secretary at the Embassy was declared a persona non grata and a member of the mission’s technical staff was declared not acceptable. The move is based on information received at the Foreign Ministry from the Specialized Prosecution Office and the State Agency for National Security that the First Secretary had gathered information on the mechanisms of the election process in Bulgaria while the trade representative had gathered intelligence information on Bulgaria’s energy sector and energy security, which was later sent to the headquarters of the Russian intelligence service in Moscow. The two were given 48 hours to leave the country. The US Embassy issued a statement saying that it commended “recent actions of the Bulgarian government to defend the country’s independence and sovereignty from malign influence”. The Embassy specifically mentions the January 24 announcement of the expulsion of two Russian Embassy officers for espionage and the January 23 announcement of charges against three Russian citizens for attempting to poison a prominent arms trader, his son and a third person. “We support the long-term efforts of the agencies involved in investigating and exposing violations of Bulgarian law. Bulgaria is a strong NATO ally and EU partner and has an unalienable right to define its own future,” says the US Embassy. It further notes that “the Government of Bulgaria has produced evidence of Russia-supported malign activities occurring within the territory of Bulgaria over a number of years”. The UK Embassy wrote in a statement posted on its Facebook page that it is following with interest the recent statement of the Bulgarian Prosecutor General and the information provided by the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs “concerning further acts of Russian espionage on the territory of Bulgaria”. “The UK continues to support the ongoing proactive stance of Bulgaria to counter foreign malign actions which undermine its sovereignty. The UK supports the steps taken by the Bulgarian authorities to respond to this threat and safeguard its citizens, territory and national security,” the Embassy says. LN//