70 expelled Russian diplomats leave Bulgaria

Sofia, Jul 3 (EFE).- Seventy diplomats and employees of the Russian Embassy in Sofia on Sunday left Bulgaria, days after being declared persona non grata.

The Sofia international airport sources confirmed to EFE that two Moscow-chartered planes arrived and, two-and-a-half hours later, took off carrying the expelled personnel and their families.

The flights had obtained special permission from Bulgarian authorities, given that European Union airspace is closed to Russian aircraft as per the sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

After the diplomats and embassy personnel were declared persona non grata on June 28 for allegedly engaging in “espionage,” Russia threatened to break relations with Bulgaria if the expulsions were not rescinded.

“Moscow is considering breaking diplomatic relations with Bulgaria due to the scandal of the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats,” Russia’s ambassador in Sofia, Eleonora Mitrofanova, told Bulgarian public television BNT on June 30.

Some of the expelled Russians had made regular payments to public figures, including journalists and political scientists, in exchange for their spreading Kremlin propaganda about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bulgarian government spokeswoman Lena Borislavova said on Saturday citing counterintelligence services.

“None of us, who are now illegally and arrogantly expelled, have worked against the Republic of Bulgaria,” Russian diplomat Filip Voskresenskiy told the press at the Sofia airport.

The decision to expel nearly two-thirds of the Russian Embassy staff in Sofia has also triggered a crisis within Bulgaria’s ruling coalition putting an end to Premier Kiril Petkov’s brief tenure. EFEvp/ta-bp

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