Other two Russian diplomats caught in spying

They gathered information about election procedure and energy system of Bulgaria

Ivan Geshev

Two more Russian diplomats posted in Bulgaria have been caught in espionage and divulgence of official secrets pertaining to election procedure and energy sector in the country, it transpired from the Prosecutor’s Office statement.

The persons in question are a first secretary in the consular department of Embassy of the Russian Federation and an officer of the Trade Mission of the Russian Federation who gathered intelligence information in Bulgaria. As the two of them have diplomatic immunity and currently the authorities cannot proceed with the probe into their activity, Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev has informed the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the evidence collected on these two cases.

Two pre-trial proceedings have been launched concerning crime against the Republic of Bulgaria after warning signals from the State Agency for National Security were sent to the Specialised Prosecutor’s Office about two persons who have been collecting top-secret information with the aim of passing it to a foreign state or a foreign organisation, reads the statement of the Prosecutor’s Office.

In the course of the investigation related to one of the pre-trial proceedings it was found out that starting from 2017 to these days a citizen of the Russian Federation has been collecting intelligence information concerning the mechanisms of election process in Bulgaria. It was also found out that the citizen enjoys diplomatic status, he is accredited as first secretary of the consular department of Embassy of the Russian Federation in Sofia.    

During the other pre-trial proceeding it was established that from October 2018 to the present moment the Russian citizen has been gathering information, including state and corporate top-secret data pertaining to Bulgaria’s energy sector and energy security which he further forwarded to the Russian intelligence services in Moscow. To carry out his illegal activity the Russian diplomat got in touch with the Bulgarian citizens who had access to information about the relevant sphere. Additional inquiry showed that the Russian citizen enjoys diplomatic immunity being an employee of the Trade Mission of the Russian Federation in Sofia.

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, criminal proceedings against the two Russian citizens were suspended despite sufficient grounds for involving them as defendants because they have diplomatic immunity, sources of the Prosecutor’s Office explained.

By way of reminder, in October 2019 another first secretary of the Russian consulate was caught in spying. According to the information released by the Prosecutor’s Office, for almost a year starting from September 2018 he has been involved in systematic intelligence gathering activity and arranged secret meetings with the Bulgarian citizens, including a top manager who had access to classified information about Bulgaria, EU and NATO. The aim of the meetings was gathering top-secret intelligence information in exchange for material benefits.

In September 2019, chairman of the National Movement “Russophiles” Nikolay Malinov was accused of spying for Russia. It became clear from the information spread by the public prosecution that Malinov made for the attempts at interference into Bulgaria’s home affairs and informed two organisations based in the Russian Federation, the Double- Headed Eagle and RISI, about the situation in Bulgaria. The engineers of the plan were Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev and former GRU general Leonid Reshetnikov who were banned from entering Bulgaria for 10 years. To implement the idea of changing the geopolitical orientation of Bulgaria from pro-Western to a pro-Moscow satellite the friend of Malinov, fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev transferred to his Russian mentors the assets worth € 500m financed by CorpBank.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: They will be declared personae non-grata

The letter of the Prosecutor General quoting information about two citizens who were accused of espionage on the territory of our country was received today at the Ministry of Foreign affairs, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva.

“We will undertake the due actions, namely declaring them personae non-grata. Within the day the Ambassador of the Russian Federation will be summoned,” the Foreign Minister added.  

“Today the directors will talk with the Ambassador. This is the second case. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed by the Prosecutor’s Office today. Currently the teams of the Ministry are seeing into both cases and today we will talk with the Ambassador on the premises of the Ministry,” Zaharieva said further.

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