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Bulgaria gives Russian diplomat 24 hours to leave

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SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s foreign ministry on Tuesday gave a Russian diplomat allegedly involved in espionage 24 hours to leave the country after it found that its request to Moscow to recall him by Monday had not been carried out.

The ministry was forced to hand a written note to the Russian ambassador early on Tuesday after the Russian embassy informed it that the diplomat was still in Bulgaria, it said in a statement.

In a rare move, Bulgaria expelled the diplomat after prosecutors said he had held conspiratorial meetings with Bulgarians, including with a senior official with a clearance for classified information from the European Union and NATO since last September.

“The Russian embassy has received a note from the Bulgarian foreign ministry declaring an embassy’s employee a persona non grata. The diplomat will leave the country in the note’s outlined timeline,” the embassy said in a posting on Twitter, adding that the Russian side is reserving its right to take corresponding measures.

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

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

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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