Bulgarian officials said Friday (24 January) that two Russian diplomats spied in the EU member country and would probably be expelled.
A consular first secretary and a diplomat at Russia’s trade representation, both men, collected “state secrets in order to transfer it to a foreign state or organisation,” the chief prosecutor’s office said.
The first secretary collected information on elections from 2017, while the trade official gathered sensitive information on the energy sector and energy security from October 2018, they said.
“We will take action, most probably declaring them persona non grata,” Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva told journalists.
“The Russian ambassador will be summoned by the end of the day,” Zaharieva said.
In October, Bulgaria expelled a first secretary at the Russian embassy for gathering classified information on Bulgaria, the European Union and NATO. In a tit-for-tat, Russia expelled a Bulgarian diplomat last December.
Bulgaria, a staunch Soviet satellite during communism, largely maintained its close cultural, historical and economic ties with Russia after the fall of the communist regime in 1989.
The NATO and EU member refused to expel Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain in March 2018.
Friday’s accusations come just a day after Sofia charged three Russians in absentia with attempted murder over the 2015 poisoning in Sofia of arms manufacturer Emiliyan Gebrev, his son and his company manager.
The Gebrev and Skripal cases have been linked by the investigative Bellingcat website through the presence of a high-ranking Russian military intelligence officer it named as Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev.
In February last year Bellingcat said Sergeev visited Bulgaria at the same time as Gebrev was poisoned, and that he also entered the UK two days before the Skripal poisoning.