The Russian Foreign Ministry has handed the Bulgarian Ambassador a note declaring a persona non grata an employee of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Moscow.
Assistant military attaché Mitko Borisov is required to leave Russia in the next 72 hours.
"This step was taken by the Russian side in response to Bulgaria's unjustified decision to expel the military, air force and naval attaché at the Russian Embassy in Sofia in December," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
On December 18, Bulgaria declared the Russian diplomat a persona non grata. The Bulgarian prosecutor's office explained this decision by the fact that since 2017, the diplomat allegedly collected classified data. The prosecutor's office claimed that the Russian attaché sought to obtain information on the number of American troops deployed in Bulgaria during the exercises.
Moscow said at the time that the expulsion of the Russian Defense Ministry’s representative does not contribute to the development of dialogue between the two countries in the military sphere, as well as strengthening stability in the Black Sea region.
In January 2020, the first secretary of the Embassy and an employee of the Russian Trade Mission in Sofia were accused of collecting classified data for Moscow. Diplomats were declared persona non grata and expelled from Bulgaria. Moscow called the expulsion a provocation, saying that Sofia did not give any explanation on the charges of espionage.
For the second time this year, Bulgaria expelled Russian diplomats in September. At the time, the country's prosecutor's office said that since 2016 two Russians with diplomatic status had been collecting classified information about plans to modernize the Bulgarian army and military equipment. The Russian Embassy also claimed that there were no grounds for such a step and said that Bulgaria did not provide any proof with regards to the allegations.