SOFIA, Bulgaria: Russian diplomats and their families departed Bulgaria over the weekend, amidst heightened tensions between the two eastern European nations.
The Russian diplomats were expelled by Bulgaria.
At the Sofia airport, Filip Voskresenski, a high-ranking Russian diplomat, confirmed that nearly 70 Russian diplomats and staff have been declared "persona non grata" and ordered to leave Bulgaria.
The expulsion of the Russians was announced by acting Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who has remained a staunch critic of Russia since its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Petkov has said that Russia will retain 43 embassy staff in Sofia. Bulgaria has only 12 diplomatic staff in Moscow.
"Anyone who works against the interests of Bulgaria will be called to go back to the country from which they came," he said.
Earlier, Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova said Russia would sever diplomatic ties with Bulgaria if it expelled the diplomats.
"I intend to urgently raise before the leadership of my country the issue of the closure of the Embassy of Russia in Bulgaria, which will inevitably lead to the closure of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Moscow," she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the European Union, which Bulgaria joined in 2007, responded to Russia's "unjustified threat" against Bulgaria and said it "stands in full support and solidarity with Bulgaria."
In April, Bulgaria was cut off from Russian gas supplies when Bulgaria refused to pay gas bills in rubles, Russia's currency.