Bulgarian authorities have dismantled a criminal group responsible for exporting goods to Russian military units in Ukraine. The operation, conducted by the Ministry of the Interior, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the State Agency for National Security (DANS), led to the detention of 12 individuals, including Russians, a Belarusian, and an Albanian.
Bulgaria, October 10, 2023 – In a significant operation led by the Ministry of the Interior, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the State Agency for National Security (DANS), Bulgarian authorities have successfully cracked down on a criminal group involved in exporting goods to Russian military units operating in Ukraine.
Deputy Prosecutor General Maria Pavlova revealed during a briefing on Monday that a total of 12 individuals have been detained in connection with this operation. Among those apprehended are Russian nationals, a Belarusian citizen, and an Albanian individual. The charges brought against them include participation in a criminal group and illegal export activities.
This criminal network specialized in the illicit export of dual-use goods from Bulgaria to Russia, a clear violation of the sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) against Moscow due to its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. The group’s operations were widespread, spanning across various Bulgarian cities, including the capital Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, and Veliko Tarnovo.
The exported goods primarily consisted of items categorized as “dual-use,” which are typically intended for civilian purposes but can potentially have military applications or be used in the production of military equipment. Optical sights, binoculars, aviation radios, software, and various other items were among the contraband goods seized in this operation.
Following the imposition of strict EU sanctions on Russia in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the export of such dual-use goods is only permitted with the issuance of a proper permit by the Ministry of Economy. According to the Ministry of the Interior and the National Security Service, the individuals detained in this operation were operating without the necessary permits, thereby violating EU sanctions.
In a notable development, one member of the criminal group established a commercial company in Plovdiv, through which approximately BGN 4 million worth of dual-use goods were purchased.
This operation comes in the wake of recent tensions between the Bulgarian government, several political parties, and President Rumen Radev over the functioning of law enforcement agencies. These tensions escalated after President Radev initially blocked changes to the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and later the National Security Service.
DANS, although subordinate to the Council of Ministers, requires the president’s approval for the appointment of its chairman. The agency holds significant responsibilities in monitoring, detecting, preventing, and countering threats to Bulgaria’s national security, with extensive powers.
In early October, the political party “We continue the change – Democratic Bulgaria” (PP-DB) introduced legislative proposals aimed at reforming specialized security services. These proposed changes seek to alter the mechanisms for selecting leadership positions within agencies such as the National Security Agency, the State Intelligence Agency (DAR), and the National Security Service (NSS).
President Rumen Radev has accused the government and various political forces of attempting to manipulate and gain control over law enforcement agencies, further intensifying the ongoing political discourse in Bulgaria.