Even as the West has condemned Russia over its alleged poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, and expelled over a hundred of the Kremlin's diplomats, one member nation of the European Union (EU) has decided against following suit and that country is Bulgaria.
On Friday, March 30, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said the country was against expelling the Russian diplomats over the March 4 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal - an act for which the UK, US and a number of EU countries have held Moscow responsible.
Borissov said as a current chair of the EU presidency, Bulgaria needed to keep the communication open with Russia in an atmosphere of growing animosity between Moscow and the West.
Most of the EU and Nato members and the US followed suit after the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning incident. Russia retaliated soon by expelling scores of diplomats. However, countries like Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Austria and Cyprus decided against the act of expulsion.
Bulgaria though stood by its EU and Nato allies by recalling its ambassador from Russia for discussions but it decided that more evidence was required before further action could be taken, Borissov said.
Bulgaria, the poorest member-state of the EU and also one of the most corrupt, took over the presidency of the EU Council on January 1 this year. Borissov said Bulgaria has kept the communication channel open in terms of tension in the past and it would do some during the West's diplomatic face-off with Russia as well.
Bulgaria's internal politics has also seen heated moments with political forces objecting to the idea of expelling Russian diplomats in order to ensure good relations with Moscow.
Bulgaria was one of the most trusted friends of the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War and several Bulgarians feel culturally connected with Russia. Russia had also played a significant role in Bulgaria's liberation and it still makes a psychological connection. Bulgaria is also dependent on Russia for gas supply, tourism and military hardware.