Bulgaria to Expel Russian Diplomat as Government Probes Blasts
Bulgaria expelled a Russian diplomat and urged Moscow to fully cooperate in an investigation into several explosions at arms warehouses that may be linked to a deadly munitions blast in the Czech Republic in 2014.
The Bulgarian probe, which authorities have linked to the attempted poisoning of an arms dealer, adds a new chapter to a row that earlier this month plunged relations between the Czech Republic and Russia to their lowest point since the fall of the Iron Curtain more than thirty years ago.
Several other European Union and NATO countries also expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with their allies in Prague.
“Bulgaria wants to have equal and mutually beneficial relations with Russia,” the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said Thursday in a statement. It “insists on active and efficient cooperation from the Russian side to clarify the circumstances around the accidents on our territory.”
Prosecutors said Wednesday they’re looking into six Russian citizens that were in Bulgaria at the time of several blasts between 2011 and 2020, as well as when the owner of the EMCO OOD arms producer, Emilian Gebrev, his son and an employee were poisoned in 2015. EMCO has rejected a link between its exports to Ukraine and Georgia and the poisoning and has accused the prosecutors of lying.
The goal of the crimes was to prevent arms from being exported to those countries, prosecutors said. Russia supports separatist movements in both in their efforts to break away from the central governments. Bulgaria has already charged three Russians who it said were likely part of the Kremlin’s GRU intelligence service for an attack that resembled the 2018 poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the U.K.
Bulgaria has close historical and cultural ties with Russia and relies on it for its natural gas and nuclear fuel supplies. It refused to expel Russian diplomats after the Skripal case, citing lack of sufficient evidence. However, it has exp