Bulgaria has expelled a Russian journalist for allegedly engaging in activities that pose a threat to the country’s national security, authorities said Wednesday.
The State Agency for National Security said Alexander Gatsak, a correspondent for Russian state-run newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, was stripped of his residency rights and barred from entering Bulgaria and other European Union member nations.
The agency said Gatsak was summoned Sept. 29 to receive the expulsion order at the Interior Ministry migration office, but he did not show up and instead took refuge inside the Russian Embassy in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.
The agency said in a statement that it sought the assistance of the Foreign Ministry and the journalist left Bulgaria on Wednesday. The statement did not elaborate on Gatsak’s alleged activities but said his removal was carried out in strict compliance with European democratic norms and values.
“The agency’s actions are aimed at protecting national security, not at limiting freedom of speech and expression of opinion,” the agency’s statement said.
Bulgaria’s BTA news agency cited Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova as threatening countermeasures for Gatsak’s expulsion, which she called “another unlawful move by NATO against Russian journalists”.
Last year, Bulgaria expelled 70 members of Russia’s diplomatic staff, a move that severely strained diplomatic ties between the two countries, which were close allies during communist times. It was the largest number of Russian diplomats ever expelled by Bulgaria.
Bulgaria, a member of both NATO and the EU, has strongly backed Western sanctions against Moscow since Russia launched its war on Ukraine last year.