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|Bulgaria today expelled the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia and two Belarusian priests, accusing them of serving Moscow’s geopolitical interests, a decision described as “evil” by the Russian embassy.
The Bulgarian national security service announced the expulsion of the three men, citing only the initials of their names and their nationalities. It also imposed a ban on their entry into the country for the next five years.
The three are accused of implementing “Russia’s hybrid strategy aimed at influencing socio-political processes in Bulgaria in favor of the Kremlin’s interests”, according to a statement from the office.
In a Facebook post, the Russian embassy stressed that the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, Archimandrite Vassian is included in the three people that have been expelled.
The pro-European Bulgarian government “has apparently undertaken the mission of setting the Russian and Bulgarian people against each other,” the Russian embassy denounced, expressing its “outrage” at this “surprise” decision. “This case is unprecedented”, the result of an “evil mind”, it added.
“This case is unprecedented,” Russia’s ambassador to Sofia, Eleonora Mitrofanova, said for her part in a video broadcast by the state news agency TASS.
A member of the European Union and NATO, a Slavic and Orthodox country, Bulgaria is historically and culturally close to Russia. However, relations between the two countries have been strained since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In June 2022, Sofia announced the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats.