Sofia, Bulgaria –
Two Russian planes were prepared to depart on Sunday with Russian diplomats and their families, a Russian diplomat said, amid a mass deportation that has raised tensions between the nations. Historical closeness is high, a Russian diplomat said.
Filip Voskresenski, a senior Russian diplomat, told journalists at the airport in the Bulgarian capital Sofia that he was among 70 Russian diplomats who claimed to be a “grata-free personality” last week. and ordered to leave the country by Monday.
The decision to expel Bulgaria was announced by acting Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who took a strong stance against Russia after it invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Petkov, who lost a vote of no confidence on June 22, announced Moscow had used “hybrid warfare” tactics to bring down its government.
Petkov has said that Russia will retain 43 of its staff after the expulsion and noted that Bulgaria only has 12 diplomatic staff in Moscow.
“Anyone who works against Bulgarian interests will be called back to the country from which they came,” he said.
On Friday, Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova issued an ultimatum to Bulgaria to reverse its decision and threatened that Moscow would completely cut off diplomatic relations.
“I intend to urgently present to the leadership of my country the issue of the closure of the Russian Embassy in Bulgaria, which will inevitably lead to the closure of the diplomatic mission,” she said in a statement. Bulgarian delivery in Moscow.
The expulsion, which has strained diplomatic relations, is the largest-ever number of Russian diplomats expelled by Bulgaria, which has the European Union and NATO. Bulgaria has strongly supported Western sanctions against Moscow since it launched a war with Ukraine more than four months ago.
The European Union, of which Bulgaria has been a member since 2007, reacted to Russia’s “unjustified threat” and said it “fully supports and stands in solidarity with Bulgaria.”
In late April, Russia cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria after officials refused Moscow’s request to pay its gas bills in rubles, Russia’s currency. The Bulgarian defense minister was also ousted in early March for treating Russia’s war as a “special military operation”, according to a description favored by the Kremlin.
Stephen McGrath reports from Sighisoara, Romania.
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