Moscow slams Russian diplomats' expulsion from Bulgaria

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova says step taken at behest of external forces.

Moscow slams Russian diplomats' expulsion from Bulgaria

Russia on Wednesday slammed the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats from Bulgaria, saying it was done at the behest of external forces.

"These external forces under false claims try to pit European states with Russia, cynically manipulate dependent governments and politicians, destroy everything that has been created on the European continent for decades," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news conference in Moscow.

The decision, she said, was an attempt by the parliament and Bulgarian Cabinet "to strike a devastating blow to relations with Russia and the remaining mechanisms of bilateral dialogue."

Bulgaria on Tuesday said it will expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff for "working against Bulgaria's interests."

Turning to Ukraine, the spokeswoman reiterated that the Russian military hit an arms depot and not a shopping mall in Ukraine's city of Kremenchuk, and that the trade center caught fire after the ammunition began to detonate.

She questioned the Ukrainian authorities' decision to build an ammunition depot near a shopping mall.

"This is what we call hiding behind the back of civilians, using them as a shield, ... hostages to geopolitical interests," Zakharova said.

She added that Western arms deliveries to Ukraine have created threats for the global community as weapons could end up on black markets.

"Law enforcement agencies of a number of Western and Eastern European countries have already noted a significant increase in the volume of criminal trafficking of weapons that comes from the territory controlled by Kyiv,” she said.

She warned that all weapons supplied to Ukraine "will return through the black market to Europe."

The spokeswoman said the West artificially stalls Russia's "special military operation" by providing military and political support to Kyiv.

On Brussels granting Ukraine EU candidate status, she said: "This, in fact, is another example of the actions of Western regimes to use Ukraine as a tool to deter Russia. It has nothing to do with the development of its economy or the region as a whole … the development of financial (or) democratic institutions.

Commenting on grain exports from Ukraine, Zakharova said Russia will not refrain from doing so and is prepared to export millions of tons of its own grains if the West stops blocking food shipments.

"If the West is worried about the onset of famine in the world, then it should stop blocking food supplies," she said.

She censured German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's statement that Russia is using food as a weapon, pointing out that such tactics were more common in Nazi Germany.

"Baerbock is not just lying, she lies brazenly, cynically to consign to oblivion that it was her country that historically used famine as a weapon and took people as hostages, destroying civilians," Zakharova said.

Hüseyin Demir