Six Russians suspected of explosions at ammunition depots in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office is gathering evidence to establish the possible involvement of six Russian citizens in four explosions at ammunition depots from 2011 to 2020. The investigation is checking the scenario according to which the explosions in 2011, 2015 and 2020 targeted weapons that businessman Emilian Gebrev was planning to send to Georgia and Ukraine, said the spokeswoman of the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office Siika Mileva.

According to Mileva, the exact cause of the explosions could not be established. In all four cases, the explosions were preceded by fires. The prosecutor's office believes that the attackers set up fires trying to provoke the evacuation of people from the warehouses. The ministry also said that the identities of six Russian citizens who were in the country every time when the explosions took place have been established. These Russians may well have been involved in the attempt to poison Gebrev, the Prosecutor's Office said.

In 2019, Bulgarian police said they suspected Russian citizen Sergei Fedotov of trying to assassinate Gebrev in the spring of 2015. Then the businessman became ill at the reception in Sofia. He fell into a coma and was hospitalized, but eventually survived.

On April 17, Czech authorities said that Russian citizens were involved in the 2014 explosions at a military warehouse in the village of Vrbetice, which destroyed about 150 tons of ammunition. The warehouses were rented by private firm Imex Group. According to Czech media, the ammunition was planned to be sent to Gebrev's company, which allegedly supplied weapons to Ukraine, Syria and other countries.

Russia called the accusations of organizing the bombings in Vrbetica groundless. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the accusations were "absurd and savage because they are brought without evidence." For his part, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called the bombings an "unprecedented terrorist act."

In protest, the Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats from the country, while Russia responded by expelling 20 Czech diplomats. On April 2, Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek announced the impending expulsion of several dozen Russian diplomats from the country. The number of the Russian Embassy in Prague should be reduced to the size of the Czech diplomatic mission in Moscow by the end of May, he said.

The Czech Embassy in Moscow currently has 24 staff members: five diplomats and 19 administrative staff, while the Russian Embassy in Prague has 27 diplomats and 67 administrative staff. The measures announced by Kulhanek mean that the staff of the Russian diplomatic mission should actually be reduced by about 70 people.

  Bulgaria, Gebrev, Russia