On Friday, July 1, the Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, informed via the embassy’s official Facebook profile, that she requested the Russian government to shut down her diplomatic post, following the expulsion of 70 of the embassy’s employees suspected of espionage. Furthermore, addressing the Bulgarian people directly, she wrote that this will inevitably lead to the closure of the country’s embassy in Moscow.
Bulgaria expels 70 Russian diplomatic staff over espionage concerns
“Dear citizens of Bulgaria,
Unfortunately, our appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria [to retract the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats] has been ignored,” reads Mitrofanova’s post. “In connection with this, I intend to immediately raise with the leadership of my country the issue of closing the Russian Embassy in Bulgaria which will inevitably entail the closure of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Moscow.
Madam Ambassador laid the blame for the potential collapse of diplomatic ties on the outgoing Prime Minister and his cabinet, stating that “The responsibility for this step’s further hard consequences lies entirely with Kiril Petkov’s government.”
In response, Mr Petkov told the press: “We will not allow foreign diplomats to give ultimatums to the Bulgarian state [to comply with their demands] by noon. We will not allow all these things because we are not afraid.”
The 70 expelled diplomats make up for more than half of the entire Russian diplomatic staff in the country.
Bulgaria has traditionally been on good terms with Russia thanks to linguistic and cultural proximity. Moscow and Sofia had not broken their diplomatic ties even during World War Two when Bulgaria was allied with the Axis powers. The decision to expel the suspected spies resulted in a minor protest of some 60 individuals, protesting against the decision in front of the Russian embassy and expressing their support for Russia.
“It’s just so abnormal to be against Russia. It is the most abnormal, the most unnatural thing’” said one of the protestors, Hristina Spasova, an elderly pensioner. “We are close here to Russia, America is infinitely far from us, oceans separate us. America only wants us as territory. They [Americans] are destroying us. […] It won’t be theirs. Glory to Russia, long live Bulgaria!”