Russian diplomats and employees of Russian missions, who were declared personae non grata in Bulgaria, are leaving the country on Sunday, an embassy spokesman said.
"The passport and customs control procedures are over. They are boarding two planes. About 160 people - diplomats, technical personnel and their family members - are leaving Sofia for Moscow," said one of the embassy employees, who continues to work in Bulgaria, TASS reported.
Bulgaria’s government has practically reduced to zero the possibility of operation of the Russian diplomatic mission in Sofia, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
"We said that they have practically reduced to minimum, or, even to zero not merely normal <…>, but any operation of the diplomatic mission. After all, it is supposed to work somehow," she said in an interview with the Voskresny Vecher (Sunday Evening) with Vladimir Solovyov program on the Rossiya-1 television channel.
According to Zakharova, practically all technical employees have been declared personae non grata. "It means that they have expelled, as they said, a large number of technical employees. <…> The blow has been delivered on the section that makes it impossible further work of the diplomatic mission from the technical, technological point of view," she noted.
On June 28, Bulgaria’s authorities announced a decision to expel 70 Russian diplomats and technical personnel of Russian diplomatic missions. Minister-counsellor of the Russian embassy Filipp Voskresensky, Consuls General in Varna and Rusa, Vladimir Klimanov and Andrey Gromov, director of the Russian Information and Culture Center Yury Makushin are amonf them.
Due to the lack of personnel, the embassy’s consular service and Russia’s consulate general in Varna suspend their operation.
The Russian embassy demanded this illegal and ungrounded decision be revoked and warned that Bulgarian diplomatic missions in Russia could be closed too. But the warning was ignored by the Bulgarian foreign ministry. Meanwhile, Russian officials say that response measures are being planned.