Bulgarian authorities expelled the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, Archimandrite Vasian Zmeev, and two Belarusian priests, IPN reports, with reference to the Bulgarian press.
“Bulgarian authorities consider Father Vasian to be a threat to national security,” Russian diplomats told TASS agency.
According to Eleonora Mitrofanova, the Russian ambassador in Sofia, 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.
“This is an unprecedented case. The church is separated from the state, and it is incomprehensible how priests can threaten national security. Many parishioners go to the Russian Church in Sofia. Such an event is a fall into the abyss,” said Mitrofanova.
According to the press in Skopje, the decision is allegedly related to the expulsion of three Russian diplomats and Vasian by the authorities in North Macedonia a week ago over allegations that they were Russian spies. Earlier, the President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski revealed that, according to reports from partner states, some of the bishops of the Ohrid Archdiocese have been collaborating with the Russian intelligence services.
The same sources said that Archimandrite Zmeev coordinated the entire policy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archdiocese (MOC-OA) in relation to its church diplomacy the last year, which led to a complete standstill in relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the issue of granting the autocephaly to the MOC-OA.