Russian agents interfere in politics, media, business

Russian agents interfere in politics, media, business

  • For the first time, the service publicly describes attempts to influence Bulgaria – from espionage to energy to fake news about the pandemic
  • The many elections have heightened intelligence interest
  • Intelligence could not find people – the candidates were both few and sick

The Bulgarian special services have finally seen through Russia’s attempts to interfere in decision-making in Bulgaria. And for the first time, the role of Moscow was described in the annual report on the activities of DANS, which was approved by the government. The unclassified part of the document has already been published on the website of the Council of Ministers.

“In 2021, the Black Sea region becomes a major theater of intense competition and confrontation. In the second half of the year

The Russian Federation is launching a large-scale hybrid campaign

for ending NATO’s eastward expansion and preserving Russian influence in neighboring countries. For this purpose, it engages a complex toolkit, including diplomacy, military power, special services, economic levers and dependencies (mainly in the energy sphere), information propaganda and disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks,” says the DANS report on the security environment in which it passed last year. There is also a special addition in the document that on February 24, Russia launched a military invasion against Ukraine. It has been described as an “unprecedented aggression on the territory of Europe since the Second World War”.

Bulgaria is the object of systematic intelligence interest, focused on our commitments in the EU and NATO, the modernization of the Bulgarian army, the economy and domestic politics, especially because of the series of parliamentary elections last year.

There are attempts to influence and affect state, military, educational and religious institutions, the media, the counter-intelligence officers note in their report. Like

agents paid particular attention to energy

There were also attempts to acquire secrets of Bulgaria and NATO allies.

In the DANS report, the only country specifically mentioned is Russia. Despite this, counterintelligence speaks of the activity of several foreign intelligence services on the territory of the country. Attempts to bring internal problems specific to their country to our territory have been defined as the main danger.

There were also attempts to interfere in the elections and the direct making of political decisions, it is clear from the public part of the DANS report. Counterintelligence officials again did not name which country or foreign service these attempts came from. But in the chapter dedicated to how the agency counteracts the attempts of foreign intelligence services to exert influence in Bulgaria, are described

only exposed Russian spies

Counter-intelligence officers pay particular attention to the group of five ex-military men who spied for Moscow, revealed at the beginning of 2021. The group included the names of the former military intelligence officer Ivan Iliev, the deputy head of the budget directorate of the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Petar Petrov, the former head of the secret affairs of the parliament Lyubomir Medarov.

DANS also notes the crossing of the activities of Russian intelligence officers on the territory of Bulgaria.

The report does not include cases from 2022, including the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats and embassy staff. The reason is that the document is only for 2021. During the expulsion of the diplomats from the team of the former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, they claimed that the DANS had data about their activities against Bulgaria.

The counterintelligence report did not describe the claims of the former government that Bulgarian public figures, including politicians, received BGN 4,000 per month to serve Moscow.

In its report, DANS pays special attention to attempts to use the COVID-19 pandemic both by spreading fake news and directly to discredit Bulgarian and European institutions.

“Calls have been made to carry out “civil arrests” and

physical assaults on journalists, members of non-governmental organizations and political representatives,

supporters of vaccination campaigns and restrictive measures. In the second half of 2021, a significant protest activation against the anti-epidemic measures was also observed,” the counterintelligence report says.

For another year, the National Health Service draws attention to the poor state of the health system as a risk to Bulgaria’s national security. There is also an increase in TELC decisions, which create dangers for the country’s financial security.

In contrast to DANS, the State Agency “Intelligence” and the service “Military Intelligence” are much more selective in their reports.

In the threats described by DAR, for example, there is no mention of Russia. Instead, there is talk of instability in eastern Ukraine, without mentioning the two separatist republics with capitals Donetsk and Luhansk by name.

In fact, the main job in the intelligence agency was

to restore its normal activity

and even the internal order, after the heads of all special services were changed in the middle of last year.

There are not enough people in intelligence, it is clear from the DAR report. The reasons were both the overall bad demographic situation and the “generally poor state of health and

the low psychological resilience of the population,

the rapid loss of motivation among candidates after being introduced to the high requirements and the multitude of checks they have to pass, the restrictions they have to respect in case of possible appointment”. This is stated in the agency’s report, signed by its chairman, Antoine Gechev. None of the other two services that reported to the Council of Ministers pointed out problems with the provision of personnel.

Unlike civilian intelligence, the military has turned its attention to Russia as a destabilizing factor in the security environment. They also talk about “Moscow’s aspirations through force mechanisms to change the world order according to its understanding and to separate its sphere of dominance and influence”. Most of the information in the military intelligence report, however, sounds like post facto analysis.

They pay special attention to the repressions that began in Russia after the elections in September 2021. According to the report, they were connected with the preparation of the attack on Ukraine.

Russia’s attempts to control Belarus and Moldova are also described. International sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Minsk have placed Belarus in acute economic dependence on Moscow. For Moldova, our military intelligence allows for political tension due to Russian influence. It is underlined

the great dependence of neighboring Serbia on Russia and China

It is clear from the report that, unlike DAR, which lacks such analyzes at all, military intelligence is actively working in the Balkans. Their analysis highlights Serbia’s attempts to destabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. In general, the Western Balkans and Russia’s actions are the main focus of the service’s activities, it is clear from the document approved by the Council of Ministers.

Military intelligence was also involved in uncovering the Russian spies last year, also included in the DANS report. An investigation has begun as to whether other cases of attempts to obtain classified information were admitted.

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