Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has called on Russia to stop spying on his country, a day after authorities in the NATO member busted an espionage group passing military secrets to Russia.
Prosecutors on March 19 charged six people, including former and current military intelligence officers, of passing classified information about Bulgaria, NATO, and the EU to the Russian Embassy in Sofia.
Since October 2019, the EU and NATO member state has expelled five diplomats and employees of the Russian Embassy accused of conducting intelligence work.
"Once again it could be necessary to declare Russian diplomats as unwanted. With yesterday's operation, I appeal again to their leaders to stop spying in Bulgaria," Borisov said.
"Friendship is friendship, but our Euro-Atlantic partnership is an unavoidable factor," he added.
Russia’s embassy on March 19 denied the spying allegations, saying it was part of "incessant attempts to drive a wedge in the Russian-Bulgarian dialogue and once again demonize our country."
Bulgaria has close cultural, historical, and economic ties with Russia, the country's main energy partner.
The United States and Britain said on March 20 that they stand with Bulgaria against "malign" Russian activities.
"Bulgaria is a friend, NATO Ally, and partner. We are attentively watching the Bulgarian investigation into an alleged Russian spy ring. The U.S. strongly supports Bulgaria’s sovereignty and stands with Bulgarians against these malign activities on their territory," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Twitter.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab issued a similar statement decrying Russia's "hostile actions."
"The UK stands with Bulgaria against Russia’s malign activity which seeks to undermine the sovereignty of our NATO ally. We fully support Bulgaria’s efforts in disrupting an alleged spy ring & taking steps to tackle Russia’s hostile actions in its territory," Raab wrote on Twitter.
Bulgaria Tells Russia To Stop Spying, Threatens To Expel Diplomats