The move comes after Sofia declared 70 Russian embassy staff ‘persona non grata’
Moscow has summoned the Bulgarian ambassador to announce its response to the expulsion of Russian foreign embassy workers. In a statement posted on Friday, Moscow says it has declared 14 Bulgarian embassy and consulate workers “persona non grata.”
The move comes after Sofia introduced a similar measure in late June against 70 Russian foreign mission employees, who were accused by Bulgaria of working for Russian special services under the guise of diplomatic activities.
Bulgaria also introduced quotas for the number of Russian diplomatic and administrative staff in the country and has temporarily closed the Consulate General in the city of Ruse.
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the “responsibility for the consequences of such counterproductive steps lies entirely with the government of Bulgaria and its Prime Minister Kirill Petkov,” adding that such actions “cause significant damage to traditional ties between our two countries.”
The move was indicative of the “further degradation of the collective West” which sacrificed the interests of its partners in order to harm Russia, the ministry said, adding that Bulgaria’s “unfriendly actions” were regrettable.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has suggested that Petkov’s action was “not an independent decision,” as he has an “open, unambiguous pro-American position and is ready to fulfill any wishes of his sovereign.”
Lavrov explained that the “wishes of the sovereign” were “to kill the historical memory of the Bulgarians, to destroy the foundation of relations that have been hardened in the joint struggle for independence and in many other situations, including in recent history.”
The diplomat added that Washington’s policy extended not just to Bulgaria but to the entirety of the Balkan region, where the US wants to “kill the historical memory” of the people, first and foremost of the Orthodox Christians.
The ‘diplomatic war’ between the West and Russia has significantly intensified since the launch of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine. In March, Bulgaria expelled twelve Russian diplomats, accusing them of violating the Vienna Convention.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has estimated that around 400 diplomats have been expelled from 28 countries since late February. Moscow says it views the expulsions as “unfriendly” actions and has warned it would retaliate against all such moves.