WCC-DB MPs table bill to transfer Russian holiday complex to Bulgarian state ownership

Two MPs for the We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria parliamentary group have drafted legislation that, if approved, would see the Russian-owned large-scale holiday complex in Kamchia on the Black Sea coast transferred to Bulgarian state ownership, and the “freezing” of Russian properties owned by sanctioned persons.

This was announced on Facebook on January 22 by WCC-DB MP Ivailo Mirchev, who drafted the bill along with another member of the group, former justice minister Nadezhda Yordanova.

Mirchev said that he expected that the bill would be supported by the entire WCC-DB parliamentary group, as well as other parliamentary groups.

“The legislative initiative is long overdue, especially in the light of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine,” Mirchev said.

“International sanctions measures in this regard have been in place since 2014, and new ones are being adopted in response to Russia’s unceasing aggression,” he said.

“In order for Bulgaria to fulfill its obligations regarding the implementation of these international restrictive measures, a specific law must be adopted.”

The bill proposes maintaining a public list of sanctioned persons on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to guarantee the rights of third parties, Mirchev said.

The holiday complex at Kamchia, owned by the government of Moscow, includes a hotel and school buildings, sports facilities, multipurpose halls and other accommodation.

It was opened on September 9 2010, with Moscow’s then-mayor Yury Luzhkov and Bulgaria’s then-prime minister Boiko Borissov in attendance.

Earlier, the Sergey Stanishev government had given more than 7.5 million leva for the construction of a 10.5km main water pipeline to the complex.

In its initial years, the complex saw regular summer visits by large groups of Russian schoolchildren, with Bulgarian police deployed as additional security, Bulgarian lifeguards and private security barring other Bulgarians from using beach facilities intended only for Russians, and local traffic police stopping traffic to allow buses carrying Russian school pupils to pass.

In those early years, such was the complex’s consumption of water that nearby villages had supply problems. This reticulation problem was eventually solved with Bulgarian state help.

From 2007 to 2018, Stanka Shopova, formerly a close associate of communist-era ruler Todor Zhivkov and who had headed Bulgaria’s communist youth league, was on the board of directors of the company registered as owning the complex.

After 2014, the year of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, there was a severe downturn in the number of visitors to the complex from Russia.

The administration of Moscow announced a tender to sell the complex, but gave up the attempt in February 2016, without stating its reason for doing so. It had announced an auction with a minimum opening bid of a sum in roubles that was then the equivalent of more than 130 million leva.

Liens were placed on the accounts of the company owning the complex at least twice for unpaid taxes and fees.

In July 2023, the labour inspectorate in Varna – about 20km from Kamchia – received formal notification that the Yuri Gagarin private school in the complex was being closed down, and 30 people, teachers and other staff, were being laid off.

After Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the Putin regime’s declaration of Bulgaria as a hostile state, the flow of Russian visitors to Kamchia evaporated altogether.

The beachside restaurant complex has been closed for some time. Though nominally open to all customers, it had been geared to Russian customers, with waitstaff not making non-Russians feel welcome. With it closing its doors, those waitstaff have had to seek employment elsewhere.

On July 19 2024, Bulgaria’s Environment Ministry announced the declaration of 14 protected areas for protection of natural habitats and wild flora and fauna.

Among the 14 was an area of the Kamchia River, but not including the area of the beach north of it and the Russian-owned holiday complex itself.

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