Six military officials arrested in Bulgaria for spying for Russia

Several individuals were detained in Bulgaria on suspicion of espionage for Russia, BNT reports. Six employees of the Bulgarian Defense Ministry were detained as part of the investigation, a spokesman for the chief prosecutor, Siika Mileva, said at a briefing on Friday.

"It goes about a group of people who were collecting confidential information in favor of a foreign state," she said.

In turn, representatives of the military prosecutor's office said that "a total of six people have been accused of the crime."

According to Mileva, one of them was trained in Moscow, where he studied at the intelligence school of the GRU. In Bulgaria, the man was working to set up a ring of informants and high-ranking military personnel having access to classified information.

"His wife, who has dual citizenship, was an intermediary in contacts between the resident and representatives of the Russian embassy," she added. Earlier, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry announced the arrest of two servicemen.

The prosecutor's office released audio recordings of telephone conversations, in which the organizer of the spy group was giving instructions. The case also includes photographs of the suspects at the time when they received information using work computers. In other photographs, the individuals  exchange currency at an exchange office.

Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev noted that the criminal group was uncovered with the help of EU and US special services.

"The criminal group was operating for a long period, it posed a serious threat to the national security of Bulgaria, the security of NATO and the European Union, as it was transmitting classified military and high-tech information. The members of the group were employees of the Ministry of Defense and military intelligence services. On March 18, investigative actions were conducted," representatives of the military prosecutor's office said, adding that one of the group members attempted to escape, but was detained "in the area of ​​the Russian embassy."

According to Bulgarian laws, the detained individuals face prison terms from 20 years to life.

Earlier, BNT sources said that officials from the state national security agency conducted a covert operation to detain suspected spies. Searches were carried out at several addresses in the southern districts of Sofia and in the vicinity of Pernik, Interfax reports.

According to 24 Hours publication, there were no Russians among the detainees.

  • In mid-December, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry declared the military, air and naval attaché at the Russian embassy persona non grata. Bulgaria's chief prosecutor, Ivan Geshev, notified the country's Foreign Ministry that the Russian diplomat had been collecting classified information of military nature in the country since 2017, for example, about the number of American military personnel coming to Bulgaria for exercises.
  • According to Geshev, the diplomat received secret information from a citizen of Bulgaria, who had access to such information. The prosecutor reminded that, in accordance with article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats are immune from criminal prosecution.
  • In September 2020, Bulgaria expelled Russian diplomats accused of espionage. According to Bulgarian media reports, they had been conducting intelligence activities since 2016 collecting information about the Bulgarian army, its rearmament and, in particular, about F16/Block 70 aircraft. Moscow responded that their expulsion was unreasonable and expelled two Bulgarian diplomats in response in October.