Bulgaria: Prosecutors re-submit espionage charges against group alleged to have spied for Russia

The Military District Prosecutor’s Office – Sofia has resubmitted to the Sofia Military Court charges against a group of six people, led by a former Military Intelligence officer, that allegedly spied for Russia, according to a statement by the Prosecutor’s Office on February 14.

The allegations against the group were first announced in March 2021, as The Sofia Globe reported at the time. There has been one court hearing on the case, which was returned to prosecutors for further processing.

As reported in March 2021, the accused are the alleged head of the spy ring, Ivan Iliev, a former senior Military Intelligence officer. Others are Lyubomir Medarov, head of the classified information registry in Parliament, Colonel Petar Petrov, of the the Defence Ministry’s budget directorate, Galina Ilieva, a Bulgarian-Russian dual national who is Iliev’s wife and who is alleged to have been the go-between between the group and the Russian embassy in Sofia, and two unnamed Military Intelligence officers.

The Prosecutor’s Office statement said that the six are being prosecuted for being members of an espionage group, for collecting state secrets with the purpose of providing them to a foreign state, and for placing themselves in the service of a foreign state to serve as spies.

According to the evidence collected during pre-trial proceedings, three of the accused provided military classified information to a foreign state, the statement said.

The statement said that the leader of the group had for years selected individuals holding key positions with access to classified information of Bulgaria and its Nato and EU partners.

Members of the group accepted money to pass classified information and other material of interest to foreign intelligence on to Iliev.

Subsequently, he and his wife provided it to an employee of the Russian embassy.

The investigation began in September 2020, at the same time that two Russian embassy staff were expelled from Bulgaria.

Vadim Bykov and Sergey Nikolashin were officially staff of the Russian trade mission, but in reality were members of Russia’s military intelligence, the GRU.

The two were reported to have been interested in Bulgaria’s military modernisation process, the country’s acquisition of US-made F-16 fighter jets, and Bulgaria’s arms industry.

(Photo: Jason Morrison)

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