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Russia expels two Bulgarian diplomats in tit-for-tat move over spying allegations

A Bulgarian police officer stands in front of the Russian Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria. (File photo by AP)

Russia has expelled two Bulgarian diplomats in retaliation for Sofia’s recent call on two Russian diplomats to leave the country over alleged espionage activities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Atanas Krystin, the Bulgarian ambassador in Moscow, on Tuesday and informed him that two diplomats in the Bulgarian mission had been declared persona non grata and had to leave the country within 72 hours.

The decision was made in “response to an unwarranted decision made by the Bulgarian side in March this year to declare two employees of the Russian Embassy in Sofia persona non grata,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Russian diplomats were expelled on March 22 after Bulgarian prosecutors accused them of carrying out “illegal intelligence activities,” and what was claimed as activities incompatible with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Russia’s embassy denied the allegations, calling them part of “incessant attempts to drive a wedge in the Russian-Bulgarian dialogue and again demonize our country.”

Moscow on Sunday also expelled 20 Czech diplomats in retaliation for a slew of diplomatic expulsions by Prague.

The expulsions took place amid an ongoing row between the two countries over a 2014 explosion in an eastern town in the Czech Republic that killed two people.

Reacting to Russia’s eviction of the Czech embassy employees, Prague said the move was stronger than expected and the government would consider further steps.

The issue has turned into the biggest dispute between the two countries since the end of decades of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in 1989.                                    

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