The Russian diplomat is the sixth to be expelled by Bulgaria, a member of NATO since October 2019, for alleged espionage.
The Russian diplomat is the sixth to be expelled by Bulgaria, a NATO member since October 2019, for suspected espionage.
The Russian Embassy in Sofia said in a statement that the expulsion of its military attaché was unfounded and that Moscow reserved the right to respond.
“The unreasonable expulsion of the head of the representation of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation does not contribute to the development of dialogue between our countries in the military field or to the strengthening of stability in the Black Sea region,” said he declared.
Bulgarian prosecutors said the Russian diplomat was looking for sensitive military information, including on the number of US troops deployed in Bulgaria during military exercises.
Prosecutors said they had evidence the diplomat had been in contact with a Bulgarian citizen with access to classified information who had been offered money.
Following the announcement of the expulsion, the US and British Embassies in Sofia expressed support for Bulgaria’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and security.
Earlier this month, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Moscow was concerned about growing NATO activity in the Black Sea.
She said NATO’s military exercise scenarios included possible attacks on Russian territory, while infrastructure was being modernized and weapons deployed in Bulgaria and Romania.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov dismissed these concerns, but confirmed that Bulgaria was modernizing its airports to accommodate eight new F-16 fighter jets it had purchased from the United States.
It also ordered two new patrol ships to replace aging Soviet-era ships to improve its compliance with NATO standards.
During Communist times Bulgaria was Moscow’s most trusted ally in Eastern Europe. Despite periodic tensions in post-communist relations, Russia remains Bulgaria’s largest energy supplier, and the two countries retain close cultural and other ties.