Hours after deporting 20 Czech diplomats, the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday summoned the Bulgarian ambassador to Moscow, Atanas Kristin, to inform him that two of his diplomats have been declared “persona non grata” and must leave Russia. They are the first secretary of the consular section, Nikolai Panaiótov, and the first secretary of the commercial and economic section of the Bulgarian diplomatic legation in the Russian capital. It is the way in which the Russian authorities have responded to the expulsion of two employees from the Russian Embassy in Sofia last month.
In March, the Sofia General Prosecutor’s Office reported that a group of six people recruited by Russian intelligence, including current and former employees of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry, were caught spying on Russia’s behalf. The agents were led by a former high-ranking officer of the Bulgarian secret services.
The Bulgarian Justice initiated proceedings and, on March 22, it was decided to expel the two Russian diplomats allegedly linked to the recruitment operation. It was alleged that, during the investigation, “it was established that two citizens of the Russian Federation carried out unregulated and incompatible intelligence activities in the framework of relations between the two countries.”
But Russia denies the existence of such a spy ring. His Embassy in Bulgaria maintains that certain forces do not cease in their “attempts to break the Russian-Bulgarian dialogue and demonize Russia again.” Moscow has proceeded to respond with the same currency, but, according to Foreign Affairs, “there is confidence that everything will be clarified and it will be shown that there has been no connection in such a plot of espionage.”
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