Press - Review

Sofia, September 10 (BTA)


The dailies frontpage reports on an investigation into spying for Russia as part of which members of the Russophiles National Movement were questioned on Monday. The case is handled by the Specialized Prosecution Office and the State Agency for National Security (SANS).

The Socialist Party's "Douma" daily was the first to report that Yurii Borissov, a secretary of the Russophiles Movement and former acting editor-in-chief of that newspaper, was arrested on Monday. The search warrant suggests that Borissov was questioned in connection with a case instituted on July 3 under a Penal Code article which states that serving a foreign country or organization as a spy carries between five and 15 years' imprisonment. Quoting Borissov's wife, the daily says that computers and documents were seized from his home. Minutes before "Douma" went to press, "24 Chassa" reported that Borissov was released without charges, while the Movement's Chairman Nikolai Malinov and his deputy, Milen Chakurov, were remanded for 24 hours. Two of those questioned said the investigators asked about the Movement's activity, the topics discussed at its forums and its financing. They were also asked if they knew Russian secret service agent Leonid Reshetnikov and Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeev. The editorial calls the arrest of the Socialist, journalist, philosopher, public figure and former MP Yurii Borissov "a qualitatively new moment in Bulgaria's most recent history", which will open the way to more arrests.  

"Sega" concludes that the special services are investigating possible Russian meddling in Bulgaria's presidential elections in 2016.  Sociologist Zhivko Georgiev threw some light on the investigation by saying that he was questioned about a study of political and geopolitical attitudes in Bulgaria, commissioned by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (then headed by Reshetnikov) in the summer of 2016, shortly before the presidential elections. Late on Monday the prosecution service confirmed that an espionage investigation is being conducted with SANS, and said that Yurii Borissov was questioned only as a witness and no charges were brought. SANS, which deals with counterintelligence, had no comment. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov told Bulgarian National Television that more details were forthcoming on Tuesday.

"Troud" has interviewed Vanya Dobreva, an activist of the Russophiles Movement and a member of the National Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, who calls the questioning "political repression".

"Telegraf" and "Monitor" claim that the movement's leader Nikolai Malinov was one of the closest cronies of the fugitive banker, former Corpbank majority owner Tzvetan Vassilev, and that Malinov acted as an intermediary between Vassilev and Malofeev. The two dailies claim Malinov introduced Vassilev to the Russian oligarch, who has been blacklisted by the EU and the United States.


"Troud" reports that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced her team of commissioners, including Bulgaria's Mariya Gabriel, on Monday, and that the distribution of portfolios will be announced on Tuesday. Another story quotes Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as saying that Bulgaria will get "a rather more prestigious portfolio in the new Commission".

"24 Chassa" quotes Borissov as saying that the financing of the Bulgarian commissioner's new portfolio will be at least "three times as large as the one before". Gabriel was responsible for Digital Economy and Society in the Juncker Commission.

"Monitor" stresses that Gabriel is one of eight commissioners named for a second term. 


"24 Chassa" covers the opening of an exhibition organized by the Russian Embassy in Sofia to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Eastern Europe from Nazism. Russian Ambassador Anatoly Makarov is quoted as saying that at a time when several projects, including the Belene Nuclear Power Plant, will be discussed shortly, Russia "got shot". He was referring to a clash between Sofia and Moscow, prompted by the exhibition, over the role of the Soviet Army in Bulgaria during World War II.  The ambassador suggested that a commission of Bulgarian and Russian historians should sort things out. The opening was attended by left and left-leaning politicians. At the same time, some 50 people organized by one of the Agrarian parties gathered outside the Russian Cultural and Information Centre with slogans such as "USSR = oppressor", "Occupation is not liberation" and "Stalin was not a liberator". DOST leader Lyutvi Mestan was also there.


"Telegraf" has a story about an art installation in the fountain in the Doctors' Garden in central Sofia dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the September 9, 1944 communist takeover, still celebrated as a socialist revolution by some Bulgarians. Sculptor Andrei Vrabchev poured two bucketfuls of iron oxide into the water and the fountain turned red - a reference to the bloodbath after the takeover and the thousands of victims of the communist dictatorship. Vrabchev also wrote "Happy September 9, 1944, ingrates" in red letters on a white background. 


"Sega" reports that the Regional Development Ministry has proposed amendments to an ordinance on road signs which introduce eight new signs, warning of traffic jams, poor visibility, road accidents, charging points for electric cars, hydrogen filling stations and stretches of road where an e-vignette or toll tax is required. The amendments are coming at a time when road traffic legislation is in for an overhaul: the effective law will be divided into three laws: on road motor vehicles, on road traffic and on drivers of motor vehicles. It is unclear when or if they will be adopted and how they will integrate the new proposals. 

"24 Chassa" also frontpages a story about the proposal, specifying that electronic signs will be introduced.


"Troud" reports that Bulgaria exported arms worth nearly 1.5 billion leva (764,540,000 euro) in 2018, according to a report of the Interdepartmental Commission on Export Control and Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The biggest buyers of Bulgarian arms are Saudi Arabia and India, which bought products worth 154.6 million and 118.9 million euro respectively. Afghanistan ranks third with 66 million euro, followed by the US and Turkey with about 59 million euro worth of Bulgarian exports each.  


"Sega" says that Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova has promised not to award procurement contracts for waste collection and street cleansing in seven districts of the capital before the October 27 local elections. The bids for the five-year contracts worth 435.8 million leva are to be opened on Tuesday but will not be ranked before the elections. Given that the current contracts expire in June 2020, Ombudsman Maya Manolova, who is running for Sofia mayor, said there was no need to hurry. Fandakova, who is seeking re-election, answered that a long-drawn-out procedure could put the city at risk of a waste management crisis. 


Interviewed by "24 Chassa" Vassil Velev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association, says the good economic figures for the first half of 2019 (GDP growth of 3.3 per cent, record low unemployment of 4.2 per cent and export growth of 6.3 per cent) will be the last good news this year because June saw a 3.5 per cent decrease in manufacturing and a 6.4 per cent drop in exports. He attributes this nascent recession to the decrease in industrial production in Germany and Italy, the main buyers of Bulgarian products. Velev calls for urgent anti-crisis measures, including a four-day work week coupled with support for the employees' wages from the State budget. 

"Douma" says police officers and chemists will join a September 11 national protest of nurses demanding higher pay and better working conditions. A police trade union sides with the nurses' demand for higher pay for night shifts.