Bulgaria expels Russian diplomat over espionage

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has given a Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country after prosecutors alleged he had been involved in espionage since 2017, the foreign ministry said on Friday. The Russian diplomat is the sixth to be expelled by NATO member Bulgaria since October 2019 for suspected espionage. Russia's embassy in Sofia said in a statement that the expulsion of its military attache was groundless and that Moscow reserved the right to respond

Reuters December 19, 2020 00:11:31 IST
Bulgaria expels Russian diplomat over espionage

Bulgaria expels Russian diplomat over espionage

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has given a Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country after prosecutors alleged he had been involved in espionage since 2017, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

The Russian diplomat is the sixth to be expelled by NATO member Bulgaria since October 2019 for suspected espionage.

Russia's embassy in Sofia said in a statement that the expulsion of its military attache was groundless and that Moscow reserved the right to respond.

"The unreasonable expulsion of the head of the representation of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation does not contribute to the development of dialogue between our countries in the military sphere or to the strengthening of stability in the Black Sea region," it said.

Bulgarian prosecutors said the Russian diplomat had been seeking sensitive military information, including on the number of U.S. troops deployed in Bulgaria during military drills.

Prosecutors said they had evidence that the diplomat had been in contact with a Bulgarian citizen with access to classified information to whom money had been offered.

After the announcement of the expulsion, the U.S. and British embassies in Sofia expressed support for Bulgaria's efforts to protect its sovereignty and security.

Earlier this month, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman said Moscow was concerned by growing NATO activity in the Black Sea. She said NATO military drill scenarios included possible attacks on Russian territory, while infrastructure was being upgraded and weapons deployed in Bulgaria and Romania.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has dismissed such concerns but has confirmed that Bulgaria is upgrading its airports to host eight new F-16 fighter jets it bought from the United States. It has also ordered two new patrol ships to replace ageing Soviet-era vessels to improve its compliance with NATO standards.

In communist times, Bulgaria was Moscow's most reliable ally in eastern Europe. Despite periodic strains in post-communist ties, Russia remains Bulgaria's biggest energy supplier and the two countries retain close cultural and other links.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia; Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Anton Kolodyazhnyy in Moscow; Editing by Gareth Jones)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.