Bulgaria Expels Two Russian Diplomats Accused of Spying

Bulgaria Expels Two Russian Diplomats Accused of Spying
A picture showing Bulgarian Parliament building, Alexander Nevski cathedral on the background, and the statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II, in Sofia, taken on Dec. 30, 2017. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images)

SOFIA—Bulgaria has expelled two Russian diplomats who prosecutors suspect were involved in spying, giving them 72 hours to leave the Balkan country, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

EU and NATO member Bulgaria, which usually maintains good ties with Russia, has expelled three other Russian diplomats over espionage allegations since last October. It also declined to grant a visa to Russia's incoming defense attache in December.

"Bulgaria's foreign ministry has declared two Russian diplomats 'persona non grata' and has informed the Russian embassy with a diplomatic note," a ministry spokesman said.

The Russian Embassy in Sofia was not immediately available to discuss the matter, while the Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier on Wednesday prosecutors said that the two diplomats had been seeking classified information on army modernization plans and the maintenance of military equipment since 2016 and that they aimed to pass it to Russian military intelligence.

The prosecutors said in a statement that the diplomats had made contact with Bulgarians with access to information related to the country's military-industrial complex and that in some cases financial benefits had been promised and provided.

Bulgaria was Moscow's most obedient satellite in eastern Europe during Soviet times. Despite periodic strains in relations in post-Soviet times, Russia remains Bulgaria's biggest energy supplier.

By Tsvetelia Tsolova