Bulgarian prosecutors investigate possible links to Russian arms depot explosions

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Bulgarian prosecutors investigate possible links to Russian arms depot explosions

Emilian Gebrev talks to the media in Sofia, Bulgaria on 18 January 2019. REUTERS Dimitar Kyosemarliev Dimitar Kyosemarliev

Bulgarian prosecutors said they are collecting evidence on the possible participation of six Russians in four explosions between 2011 and 2020 at Bulgarian arms depots that were holding munitions for export to Ukraine and Georgia.

A spokeswoman said that prosecutors could reasonably ascertain links between the explosions in Czech Republic in 2015, the attempted poisoning of the Bulgarian arms trader Emilian Gebrev and munitions depot explosions in Bulgaria in 2014.

The six Russians were in Bulgaria around the dates when the explosions at the arms depots occurred and attempts were made to poison Gebrev, prosecutors' spokeswoman Siyka Mileva told a news briefing on Wednesday.

Mileva said that collected evidence points to the conclusion that the purpose of the actions of Russian citizens was to stop the supply of goods to Georgia and Ukraine, with a great degree of credibility.

Evidence is collected on the complicity of six Russian citizens.

Ukraine was in the Kiev region since 2014 when its Crimea region was annexed by Moscow and Russian-backed separatists launched an insurgency in the east of Ukraine. Since their 2008 war, the tensions between Russia and Georgia have been high.

Leonardo said prosecutors were liaising with counterparts in the Czech Republic to establish possible links between the 2015 bomb blasts and the 2014 explosions in the Czech depot, which also contained munitions owned by Gebrev.

Moscow dismissed the Bulgarian allegations as absurd and on Wednesday (D-Day) Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the Czech investigation. Both sides knew nothing and only now, after the Czech Republic announced the 2014 incident, decided to defeat the Bulgarians and look further back into history, told reporters. Or they became public to all this time but knew not about the fact - for some reason and kept it private.

Mileva did not reveal Russian citizens or provide other details about them, but said that three Russians who had been charged with the attempted murder of Gebrev were likely to be intelligence agents.

Prosecutors said the explosion at an arms depot owned by Gebrev's company EMCO in 2011, two blasts at the state equipment company VMZ in 2015 and a fourth at private arms producer Arsenal in 2020 all found obvious, technical causes.

The blasts were all triggered remotely and followed the outbreak of fires that the perpetrators later said were timed to allow workers to leave the area and avoid casualties, said Mileva.

In all four blasts, production from Georgia and Ukraine was destroyed, she said.

In a statement, VMZ said the munitions that were destroyed in its depot in 2011 were not intended for export to Georgia and denied any link to the explosions in Georgia. EMCO wanted prosecutors to find the real reasons for the explosions.

Czech authorities ordered most Russian diplomatic staff in Prague to leave last week after accusing Russian spies of being behind ammunition depot blasts. Russia in reprisal expelled Czech diplomats. Prague has spoken with Bulgaria of solidarity.

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