Press - Review

Sofia, September 11 (BTA)


The main story today on the front pages of "Troud", "24 Chassa", "Douma" and "Telegraf" is that Russophiles National Movement Chairman Nikolai Malinov has been charged with espionage, and the State Agency for National Security (SANS) has imposed a ten-year ban on retired Russian intelligence General Leonid Reshetnikov's entering Bulgaria. Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov stated that there is evidence Malinov worked for the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) and the Double-Headed Eagle Society, owned by businessman Konstantin Malofeev and Reshetnikov. Searches conducted in recent days yielded a number of documents showing that Malinov carried out tasks for which he and his companies were paid, such as providing intell on the political situation in Bulgaria and the Balkans, organizing relevant events, and establishing a political party and TV channel which would campaign for a shift of Bulgaria's geopolitical interests.

"Troud" quoted Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, who said that the charges against Malinov are due to him placing himself in service of foreign interests above his country's and are not affected by who he chose to pledge his allegiance to.

"24 Chassa" writes that investigations on the case began after a money laundering scheme was dismantled and the SANS Financial Intelligence Directorate subsequently launched a check. It emerged from the data that banker Tzvetan Vassilev and his failed Corporate
Commercial Bank were also involved in the case.

"Troud" also quoted the aforementioned Gen. Reshetnikov, who placed the blame for the scandal on the US starting a campaign in search of Russian spies in Bulgaria. The publication recalls that the General has been previously suspected of influencing Bulgaria's Presidential Elections. "24 Chassa" writes that Reshetnikov is critical towards the Bulgarian government and argues that Russia needs to refuse its support for Bulgaria's gas hub. He also said that "there is nothing worth of note to spy on in Bulgaria". "Douma" writes that Malofeev also blames the "western special services" for instigating the conflict. "Monitor" on the other hand writes that Reshetnikov has been linked to an unsuccessful coup attempt in Montenegro in 2016.

"Douma" and "Troud" write that Russian Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Chair Konstantin Kosachev said in a Facebook post that Russia will protect Bulgarian russophiles in any and all "diplomatic, sociopolitical and, if pertinent, legal" ways.

"24 Chassa","Troud" and "Douma" quoted Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, who said that he needs to see hard evidence backing up this serious accusation, otherwise he might doubt that it is just a "stage-managed domestic political scenario".

"Douma" and "24 Chassa" quote Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Kornelia Ninova, who believes this is being done to cover up scandals caused by Cabinet and in order to manipulate the election campaign.

"Douma" wries that the political right's opinions on the matter vary, with some calling it a political maneuver (trying to sway local election voters and/or solidify Ivan Geshev's candidacy for Prosecutor General), some are happy about the turn of events and some do not take it seriously.

"Telegraf" quotes an official statement from the Us Embassy in Sofia, which fully supports Bulgaria's efforts to defend its sovereignty from malign influence, as published on their Facebook page. The publication also quotes GERB MP Spas Gurnevski, who expects an answer to "the two year-old-question weather BSP leader Ninova has had a meeting with Reshetnikov or not". GERB MP Toma Bikov noted that the allegations are very serious and "would not have been made without substantial evidence".


In publications, including "Troud", "24 Chassa", "Sega" and "Douma", the other mains story today is that European Commission (EC) President-elect Ursula von der Leyen presented her team and the new structure of the next European Commission. "Troud" and "24 Chassa" have published a full page diagram of the new EC Commissioners, which come from all Member States except the UK. Bulgarian European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel is moving on from Digital Economy & Society to the Innovation and Youth portfolio, worth close to 147 billion euro and including research, youth, education, culture, sport. "Sega" calls it an "important, but not too powerful portfolio" which includes the Horizon 2020, Erasmus+ and Creative Europe Programmes.

"Monitor" and "24 Chassa" write that Gabriel congratulated von der Leyen on her bravery to combine into one portfolio the so called golden triangle - science, business and education. The mission letter to Gabriel reads that her task in the next five years will be to harness the EU's potential so as to "ensure that education, research and innovation help us deliver on our ambitions and wider objectives".

Analyses in "24 Chassa" note that Gabriel showed her aptitude for "soft" subjects, so Bulgaria could not have expected a portfolio like defence or security, but that this one is actually a very significant one, as it is connected to the future of Europe (both in terms of innovation and youth) and has the potential of correcting Europe's inability to put its ideas into practical use.


"24 Chassa" reports that on Wednesday the BSP is expected to nominate a candidate for mayor of Sofia, arrange their list for municipal councilors and adopt their election platform for the capital. A conference of BSP-Sofia will decide the big question, weather the party will support independent Maya Manolova's candidacy for capital mayor. Manolova is at the top of a total of 18 nominations by the party, while the municipal councilor nominees are close to 70.

"24 Chassa" also writes about current Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova's response to Manolova's criticism that "conducting a mayoral campaign as an active mayor is unfair". Fandakova said that until her campaign officially starts she will not take time off as the capitol's problems "will not wait for her".

"24 Chassa" reports that the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria party announced its mayoral candidates for Plovdiv and 19 other towns on Tuesday. More are to come soon, including their Sofia candidate, if they decide to nominate one.


"24 Chassa" and "Troud" write about two seperate protests in Sofia centre connected to Prosecutor General Nominee Ivan Geshev, one protest being in favour of the sole nominee and other against him.

"24 Chassa", "Telegraf", "Monitor" and "Troud" write about a signal for a planned coop that was sent out to the media and is to be submitted to the prosecuting magistracy on Wednesday by Yordan Bonev, son of Ventsislav "Chicagoto" Angelov. He claims that a plan existed to overthrow Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and prevent Ivan Geshev from becoming Prosecutor General, financed by businessman Ivo Prokopiev and exiled banker Tsvetan Vasilev and including Dessislava Ivancheva (ex-mayor of Sofia's Mladost borough, who was charged with corruption in a high profile scandal), the BOETS Civil Association, the investigative website and others. Boev attached chat logs, audio files and video files as evidence, the first of which shows conversation between Ivancheva and Chicagoto (Bonev's father) talking about protests against Geshev, which may lead to protests against PM Borissov, mentioning the names of Vasilev and Prokopiev. Ivancheva admitted that Yes, Bulgaria! leader Hristo Ivanov and Georgi Georgiev from BOETS are part of the organization. "Troud" notes that Bonev, who owns a news media, was introduced to the organization that claimed to "fight for justice". "Troud" also ends their article with a disclaimer that they cannot authenticate Bonev's claims until an official Interior Ministry Investigation.

"Telegraf" writes about how, despite all the important subjects dominating Bulgaria's Political scene, e-scooters and their regulations remain a central theme, reaching absurd proportions, such as authorities issuing fines for unregistered scooters, but also refusing to register them.


"Douma", "Monitor" and other publications report that the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency hosted the 14th meeting of the Standing Group of Experts on African swine fever (ASF) in Europe. Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, gave high marks for Bulgaria's efforts and measures to cope with the disease and urged for firmness, however painful the measures are, so that this country can eliminate the consequences of the ASF outbreak in three or four years. Earlier in the day Bulgaria Prime Minister Boyko Borissov conferred with Andriukaitis. Borissov argued that the spread of ASF is no longer a regional, but a global problem causing enormous losses to the target countries, to entire economies and trade partnerships and that coordinated actions exceedingly important. the headline of the "Douma" article reads "Climate Change Led to ASF".

"Sega" is critical of the fact that pigs are forcibly slaughtered outside the 20km radius around noted hotspots of AFS. Agriculture Minister Dessislava Taneva explained that this decision is not against  regulations and that current efforts have led to no new pig farm outbreaks for the last month. There have been ASF-infected wild boar cases, however.

"Telegraf" outlines new biosecurity measures for industrial pig farms, small family pig farms and "backyard" pig farms. Measures include a mandatory fence around the animals, no more than 3 "backyard" pigs (down from the 5 allowed until now), disinfection regulations. All pigs farms must be registered, albeit with a new lighter procedure. The people who had to slaughter their pigs cannot start raising new ones before September 2020. Agriculture Minister Taneva said that these measures are not something they just came up with, but are based on research and other countries's experience. 


"Sega" writes that after the launch of the Belene-N-Plant procedure, the US is  worried about the project's realization, as well as the continuation of the TurkStream's second pipe through Bulgaria to Serbia. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from the State Department's Bureau of Energy Resources, Kent Logsdon, said that this will make Bulgaria more energy dependant from a single source, which will make it more vulnerable, as both projects are connected to political interests.


"Sega" frontpages a look on the current illegal migration situation in Bulgaria, pointing out that immigrants in Bulgaria are up by 81.7 per cent. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov Tuesday said that an increase has been registered in migrants' attempts to illegally cross the Bulgarian-Greek border. He also noted that the Bulgarian-Turkish border is well guarded, but complications are to be expected in view of the processes developing in the Middle East and Turkey.


Beekeepers held a press conference on Tuesday, stating that they are planning a protest against unhealthy practices in honey processing. They explained that they cannot sell their product directly, only through processors, but that processed honey loses 70 per cent of its properties. Chemical treatment harms both bees and people, but fines go up to only 3,000 leva. Beekeepers and honey makers demand a uniform policy for the sector, as well as subsidies od 100-200 leva per bee colony. Bulgaria gains over a billion leva per year from the sector.


"Troud" writes about an innovative teaching method practiced in some Bulgarian schools that consists of different natural science teachers holding classes together in order to present a more full view of the subject. Education Ministry Innovation Commission Chair Asen Aleksanrov said that the most useful education innovations are not only implementing new technologies, but also changing curriculums, rearranging the syllabus and combining information, as mentioned above.