Bulgaria accuses a Russian diplomat of spying and is expelling him from the country.
"The foreign ministry of the Republic of Bulgaria declared persona non grata a diplomat from the Russian embassy in Sofia and gave him 72 hours to leave the country due to activities incompatible with his diplomatic status," Bulgaria’s foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.
Russia said the charges against its diplomat are “groundless.”
Prosecutors say the diplomat had been gathering information for years on the deployment of U.S. troops in Bulgaria.
The U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria said in a statement: "We have in recent weeks and months seen too many examples of Russian officials carrying out aggressive actions, from espionage in Bulgaria to poisoning opponents both at home and abroad. Bulgaria is a strong NATO ally and partner and has an unalienable right to defend its sovereignty.”
Neither Bulgaria nor Russia revealed the identity of the diplomat, but the Associated Press reports that local media identified the diplomat as Colonel Vasiliy Sazanovich.
Bulgaria has expelled at least five Russia diplomats over the past year that it has accused of spying.
The eastern European country is a NATO and European Union member, but it was once one of Russia’s closest allies during the Cold War.