Bulgaria denies visa to Russian attache after expelling diplomat over spying

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria said on Wednesday it had declined a visa to the incoming defense attaché at the Russian embassy in Sofia, a day after expelling another Russian diplomat over spying allegations.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said it had made the decision to withhold the visa for the incoming attache, who was still in Russia, because of a “negative opinion” reached by one of the bodies involved in agreeing long-term visas for diplomats.

It gave no further details on the reasons but said the decision did not mean the Russian official was declared persona non grata. It had informed Moscow of the decision, it said.

The other diplomat, given 24 hours to leave on Tuesday, had departed from Bulgaria with his family, it said. Bulgaria had said on Tuesday it was taking the unusual step of expelling him after Moscow failed to comply with a request to recall him.

Russia has not commented publicly on either case.

Bulgarian prosecutors said the expelled diplomat had held conspiratorial meetings with Bulgarians, including with a senior official with a clearance for classified information from the European Union and NATO, since September last year.

Bulgaria, a loyal ally of Moscow in Soviet times, is now a member of NATO and the European Union but still has close cultural and historic ties to Russia, which remains its biggest energy supplier.

Sofia did not join NATO and EU allies in expelling Russian diplomats over a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England last year.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov