On October 29th, a Russian diplomat was designated as “persona non grata” in Bulgaria, after being accused of being a spy and attempting to gather state secrets and disseminate them to a foreign government.
The name of the diplomat hasn’t been released, but Bulgarian media, citing anonymous sources claimed that the expelled individual is the first secretary of the Russian embassy Andrey Egorov. There are a total of 9 first secretaries working in the Russian Embassy in Bulgaria.
The Russian diplomat allegedly had held conspiratorial meetings with high-ranking Bulgarian officials, including one with access to classified information about Bulgaria, NATO, and European Union affairs. The diplomat intended to hand the information to a foreign country, the prosecutor’s office said.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry further said that representatives from it met with Russian Ambassador Anatolyi Markov and verbally requested that the individual leave the country within 72 hours.
“After the Russian embassy notified us on Monday [October 28th] that the diplomat hadn’t left the territory of the country, the Russian Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry at 10 AM today [October 29th]. He was given a notice, giving the accused diplomat 24 hours to leave the country,” the Foreign Ministry said.
With the expulsion of a Russian diplomat the Bulgarian authorities are trying to show some “European solidarity,” said the First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, Deputy Chairman of the Communist Party Central Committee Dmitry Novikov.
“Bulgaria, one way or another, despite the long historical periods of friendship with Russia, today is in the general context of European politics. And, accordingly, it is subject to all the trends, dogmas and mythologies that are now forming in Europe in relation to the Russian Federation. And therefore, the authorities Bulgaria is ready in this regard to show some kind of “pan-European solidarity”, and it is expressed both through the support of all kinds of sanctioned economic measures, and measures of political and diplomatic influence. fits into the general line,” he said.
According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, “the diplomatic agent shall be immune from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.” That is why, although there are reasons to bring a case against the diplomat on the grounds of espionage, he is protected due to his immunity.
In September, Bulgarian prosecutors also banned a veteran Russian foreign intelligence official, Leonid Reshetnikov, from entering Bulgaria for ten years. Reshetnikov is the Lieutenant-General of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service and the former head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies.
This was in relation to allegations against Nikolai Malinov, the head of the National Russophile Movement, who had worked for the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, run mainly by former foreign intelligence officials, and also for a Russian NGO, the Double-Headed Eagle, since 2010.
“Nikolai Malinov has been charged with putting himself in the service of foreign organizations to work for them as a spy,” Deputy Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev told reporters.
Prosecutors said they had found a Russian-language document prepared by Malinov that spoke of “the necessary geopolitical re-orientation of Bulgaria”.
“The document outlines the steps needed to be taken to completely overhaul the geopolitical orientation of Bulgaria away from the West towards Russia,” Geshev said.
The document, which prosecutors did not date, showed Malinov allegely planned to create internet sites, a TV channel, an influential think-tank and a political party to encourage Bulgarians to form more positive views of Russia based on their shared Slavic traditions and Orthodox Christianity.
This is the first publicly known case of a Russian diplomat expelled from Bulgaria since 2001. Then the former head of the analytical department of the Military Information Service of the Ministry of Defense Colonel Yani Yanev was arrested with secret documents before the Russian Embassy. The secretary of the Secretariat of the Lilyana Gesheva was also detained. As a result, three Russian diplomats, including Viktor Lomakin, were expelled from Bulgaria, with whom investigators claimed that Yanev had a meeting to give him a summary of the situation in the Balkans, which he received from Gesheva.
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