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Britain Charges Bulgarian Nationals with Spying for Russia

Three Bulgarian nationals, including a former adviser to Bulgaria’s energy ministry, have been charged in Britain with spying for Russia and possession of fake identity documents with “improper intention”, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

The three were arrested in February and had been living in Britain for a number of years, the BBC reported.

They were found in possession of passports and ID cards for Britain, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, and the Czech Republic.

British authorities have identified the suspects as Orlin Roussev, 45, of Great Yarmouth, and Bizer Dzhambazov, 41, and Katrin Ivanova, 31, of Harrow, northwest London. 

Dzhambazov and Ivanova shared an address, worked in the health sector and were described as active within the local community, for example by facilitating voting in Bulgarian elections by diaspora Bulgarians.

Roussev has a history of business dealings with Russia and held an advisory role in Bulgaria’s energy ministry between 2008-2009, when the ministry was led by the pro-Kremlin Bulgarian Socialist Party member Petar Dimitrov.

The three are due to go on trial at the Old Bailey in London in January. 

Bulgaria’s energy ministry has long been seen as a lever of Russian influence.

Last year, interim energy minister Rosen Hristov criticised the reformist coalition under Prime Minister Kiril Petkov for trying efforts to diversify gas resources after a sudden cut-off in supplies from Russian energy giant Gazprom. 

After Petkov’s cabinet was ousted in a no-confidence vote in mid-2022, an interim cabinet appointed by President Rumen Radev explored how to block the diversification deals. The attempted U-turn cemented Radev’s reputation as an ally of the Kremlin and triggered nationwide protests. 

Russian meddling in Bulgarian politics has long been a hot topic: over recent years, Bulgaria has expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats for espionage and arrested a number of Bulgarians accused of collaborating.

Analysts say Moscow’s influence can be seen in the activities of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the repressive Communist Party, and the far-right Revival, which have been outspoken in their hostility for the European Union and United States.

Both parties, and Radev, criticised a move to increase military aid to Ukraine and to welcome Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to Sofia. 

Most recently, in late July, lawmakers voted to end Russian oil firm Lukoil’s concession to run the Rosenets oil terminal near the Bulgarian port of Burgas, drawing fire again from Radev. 

Source : Balkan Insight