Russia kicks out 14 Bulgarian embassy staff

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday (5 August) that Moscow declared 14 Bulgarian embassy staff persona non grata, leaving the country with almost no diplomatic presence.

Four of the officials expelled are diplomats, the remaining 10 are technical staff, the Bulgarian foreign ministry said in a post on Facebook.

Bulgaria earlier this summer expelled 70 Russian diplomatic and technical staff over espionage concerns and set a cap on the size of Moscow’s representation as relations between two countries that were once close allies fractured over Ukraine.

Bulgaria is left almost without diplomatic staff in Russia after the expulsion, EURACTIV Bulgaria reported.

In contrast, even after the expulsion of the 70 staff, the Russian embassy still has personnel in Sofia of over 40 people.

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry blamed for this “counter-productive measure” the government of outgoing prime minister Kiril Petkov.

Petkov, a pro-Western reformist, lost power after a confidence vote on 23 June.

Petkov’s government falls from power

A no-confidence vote led to the Bulgarian parliament overthrowing the government of Kiril Petkov, which was elected only six months ago, and Bulgarians will likely vote again in general elections in the autumn, the fourth such vote in just over …

Bulgaria is now run by a caretaker government appointed by President Rumen Radev.

Radev has criticised Petkov for the expulsion of the 70 embassy staff. It is still unclear how he plans to mend ties in the period before the 2 October elections.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]