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Bulgaria Declines Visa For Incoming Russian Defense Attache After Expelling Envoy For Spying

(illustrative photo)
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Bulgaria has denied a long-term visa to an incoming Russian defense attache, a day after expelling a Russian diplomat on suspicion of espionage.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said on October 30 that one of its bodies involved in approving long-term visas for diplomats had a "negative opinion" of the incoming envoy but that the decision didn’t mean the official was deemed persona non grata.

Further details about the reason for denying the visa weren’t given.

The other diplomat, one of Moscow's nine first secretaries at the Russian Embassy in Sofia, had left with his family, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said.

Sofia took the unusual step of expelling the unnamed diplomat on October 29 after he failed to comply with a request to recall him to Moscow.

The Russian Embassy confirmed receiving the written expulsion on October 30 and that its employee would comply with a 24-hour deadline to depart.

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko said Russia would respond to the expulsion of its embassy employee from Bulgaria.

Neither the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry, the Prosecutor-General’s Office in Sofia, nor the Russian Embassy have revealed the name of the suspected spy.

Pretrial proceedings against the Russian Embassy employee were suspended on October 28 on grounds that the suspect had diplomatic immunity.

The Russian suspect allegedly held conspiratorial meetings with high-ranking Bulgarian officials, including one with access to classified information about Bulgaria, NATO, and European Union affairs.

The Prosecutor-General's Office in Sofia said the Russian suspect intended to hand the information to a foreign country.

Bulgaria became a member of NATO in March 2004 and joined the European Union in 2007.

The case is the first publicly known instance of a Russian Embassy employee being expelled from Bulgaria since 2001, the Bulgarian news website Mediapool reported.

With reporting by Mediapool and Reuters
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