Bulgarian authorities expelled on Thursday the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, Archimandrite Vassian Zmeev, who was expelled from Skopje a week earlier because of allegations that he was a Russian spy.
Together with Zmeev, two citizens of Belarus who were also servants of the Russian Church were expelled from Sofia.
“There is information about the actions of these persons related to the implementation of various elements of the Russian Federation’s hybrid strategy to purposefully influence the socio-political processes in the Republic of Bulgaria in favour of Russian geopolitical interests”, claims the Bulgarian counter-intelligence agency SANS.
According to Eleonora Mitrofanova, the Russian ambassador in Sofia and the Russian Orthodox priests “were called to the migration service where they were told they were a threat to Bulgaria’s national security and had to leave the country today”.
“They were put in a prison van and taken to their homes so they could collect their things. Then they were taken to the (Russian) church (in Sofia) and then to the border with Serbia,” Mitrofanova said, quoted by TASS. “We can say that they simply spat in the face of our church, especially since it happened on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.
A week ago, the authorities in North Macedonia expelled three Russian diplomats and Vassian over allegations that they were Russian spies. The priest Vassian Zmeev has been managing the Russian church in the Bulgarian capital for five years, but a year ago, he was appointed by the Russian Patriarch Kirill to be in charge of the Macedonian church as well.
Immediately after Vassian was ousted by North Macedonia’s authorities a week ago, the influential MP from the ruling coalition in Sofia PP-DB Atanas Atanassov said that Zmeev had tried to bring a schism in the Macedonian church.
Atanassov was indignant that the Bulgarian intelligence services had not reported that the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in Bulgaria was engaged in espionage.
“A small North Macedonia has found out this. This indicates the low efficiency of the intelligence services in Bulgaria,” Atanasov said late last week before the Bulgarian authorities decided to expel the Russian priest from the country.
(Krassen Nikolov | Euractiv.bg)
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