Sofia on Wednesday expelled the correspondent of Russia's government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, weeks after sending home the head of the Russian Orthodox Church there.

Russian journalist Aleksander Gatsak had been found to be performing “activity that poses a threat to Bulgaria's national security,” said a statement from the State Agency for National Security (SANS).

His residency rights had been revoked and an expulsion order issued in September, it said.

“The actions of the agency aim to protect national security, not restrict freedom of speech and expression,” the statement added.

In September, Bulgaria expelled the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia and two Belarussian priests, accusing them of having interfered in the country's internal affairs.

A member of the European Union and NATO, Bulgaria is a Slavic and Orthodox country with very close historical and cultural ties to Russia.

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But relations have been strained since Russia launched its war against Ukraine, with Sofia condemning the invasion and expelling 70 Russian diplomatic staff last year. 

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