Bulgaria Expels Russian Diplomat Over Espionage Suspicion

(Bloomberg) -- A Russian diplomat was recalled over espionage after Bulgarian authorities failed to raise charges against him due to his immunity.

There are “grounds” to charge a first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Bulgaria for espionage, the Special Prosecution in Sofia said in a statement without naming the person. The diplomat was involved in gathering intelligence for nearly a year from September 2018. A Russian Foreign Ministry official didn’t immediately answer a request for comment by Bloomberg.

The relations between the two countries -- traditionally cordial, particularly in the energy sector -- have been put to a test several times in the past two months. On September 10, the head of a pro-Russian non-governmental Bulgarian group was charged with espionage for allegedly working to shift his country’s geopolitical orientation. A week earlier, Bulgaria’s foreign ministry criticized Kremlin over remarks about World War II.

The diplomat “held regular conspirative meetings with Bulgarian citizens, including a ruling official with access to classified information” from Bulgaria, the European Union and NATO, the prosecution said Monday.

The Foreign Ministry met the Russian Ambassador on Oct. 25, when it received information from the prosecution and the National Security Agency, it said in a separate statement. The ministry asked Russia to recall their official by end-Monday. He has already left the country, it said.

(Updates with Russia’s foreign ministry in 2nd paragraph.)

--With assistance from Henry Meyer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Slav Okov in Sofia at sokov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Irina Vilcu at isavu@bloomberg.net, Piotr Bujnicki, Balazs Penz

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