Bulgaria has arrested eight people allegedly involved in espionage for Russia, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov told MPs on September 11.
This is the first time since 1978 that Bulgaria has made accusations of espionage, and comes just ahead of the official launch of the local election campaign, as well as during the campaign to elect a new chief prosecutor. The latter has been marred by controversy as only one candidate, who raised concerns of possible dependence on those in power, has been nominated.
The information also came after a rather unexpected statement earlier in September by Bulgaria’s foreign affairs ministry, criticising Russia over remarks about its role in the WWII.
The arrests were made on September 9, but the police and the prosecution have not provided official information so far.
Of the eight arrested, one has already been formally charged – the head of the Russophile National Movement in Bulgaria, Nikolai Malinov.
Malinov declined to provide further information, saying he does not have permission from the observing prosecutor.
On September 8, deputy chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev, who is the sole candidate to become Bulgaria’s next chief prosecutor, told reporters the prosecution has discovered data on financial transactions from two international organisations to Malinov and the funds have been used for activities threatening Bulgaria’s national security.
The two organisations are owned by two individuals — Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeev and former KGB general Leonid Reshetnikov. Both were banned from entering Bulgaria for 10 years following the arrests.
Malinov has allegedly written documents proposing switching Bulgaria’s geopolitical course from “the Western world toward the Russian Federation,” including by transferring key private assets to Russian ownership, creating a TV channel and a political party, Geshev has said.
He was released on bail and claimed he was not guilty and denied receiving money from Malofeev, although admitted he has known him for years.
Malinov also said he had introduced Malofeev to Tsvetan Vassilev — the majority shareholder of the now bankrupt Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank). The Bulgarian specialised prosecutor’s office has filed indictments against 18 people, including Vassilev, over the collapse of Corpbank.
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