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Russian envoy to Bulgaria says she will ask Moscow to shut embassy

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Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria said on Friday she would ask Moscow to close down its embassy in the Balkan country after her appeal for Sofia to reverse a decision to expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff was ignored.

In a statement addressed to the Bulgarian people, the ambassador, Eleonora Mitrofanova, said the closure of the Russian embassy would inevitably lead to the closure of Bulgaria’s embassy in Moscow too.

Bulgaria, an EU and NATO member state and once a close ally of Russia, has been roiled by diplomatic tensions this week after outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov announced the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomatic staff on espionage concerns.

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The move was the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats by Sofia in recent years and more than halved the size of Moscow’s diplomatic footprint in Bulgaria.

Russia’s ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova called the expulsions an “unprecedented hostile step” and on Thursday told Sofia to reverse its decision by midday on Friday. If it did not, she said she would ask Moscow to consider ending Russia’s physical diplomatic presence in Bulgaria altogether.

Petkov earlier on Friday rejected her ultimatum.

“Unfortunately, our appeal to Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was ignored,” Mitrofanova, the Russian ambassador, wrote in a statement.

“I intend to quickly put the question of the closure of Russia’s embassy in Bulgaria before my country’s leadership, which will inevitably mean the closure of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Moscow,” she wrote.

Responsibility for any ensuing serious consequences lay with Petkov’s outgoing government, she said.

About 60 people gathered in front of the Russian embassy in Sofia on Friday to demonstrate against the government’s decision to expel the Russian diplomatic staff.

Supporters of Petkov’s decision plan a rally on Sunday at Sofia airport, when the 70 Russian diplomatic staff and their families are due to leave the country.

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