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Bulgaria Considers Expelling Two Russian Diplomats Over Espionage

By RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service January 24, 2020

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva says the government is likely to expel two unnamed Russian diplomats over spying allegations.

"We have received the letters from the prosecutors with the allegations," Zaharieva said on January 24.

"We will undertake the actions that we are obliged to undertake and will most probably declare them personae non gratae," Zaharieva said, adding that she would summon the Russian ambassador to Sofia.

Russia's Embassy later said that the ambassador had been handed a note declaring the two diplomats personae non gratae.

"No evidence confirming their activities incompatible with their status has been furnished. Russia reserves the right to take tit-for-tat measures," the embassy said.

Earlier on January 24, Bulgarian chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev confirmed that a pretrial investigation of two Russian diplomats accused of espionage had begun.

Geshev "has informed the minister of foreign affairs about the collection of evidence regarding espionage activities carried out by two foreign nationals with diplomatic immunity on the territory of the country," the Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement on its website.

"Two specialized pretrial proceedings were initiated into crimes committed against the Republic of Bulgaria," it added.

One of the two diplomats -- identified in the statement as a first secretary in the Russian Embassy's consular department -- collected information on Bulgaria's election process, while the other was spying on the EU member state's energy sector and energy-security measures, the statement said.

It added that the two Russians could not be charged due to diplomatic immunity.

In a separate case on January 23, Bulgarian prosecutors announced charges in absentia against three Russians for the attempted murder of a weapons manufacturer, his son, and the production manager of the company.

The Sofia city prosecutor's office said the three unidentified suspects intentionally attempted to poison the victims "by intoxication with an unidentified phosphorus-organic substance."

Prosecutors said the crimes were committed between April 28, 2015, and May 4, 2015, and targeted Emilian Gebrev, owner of EMCO Ltd., his son, Hristo Gebrev, and manager Valentin Takhchiev. All three survived the attacks.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and TASS

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/bulgaria-considers -expelling-two-russian-diplomats -over-espionage/30395123.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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