site.btaMP Atanasov: Bulgarian Services Likely Turned Blind Eye on Russian Priest's Spying
In a Sunday interview for bTV, Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) MP and former head of the parliamentary Committee for Control of the Security Services, Atanas Atanasov, commented the expulsion of the Russian clergyman, who used to be the rector of the Church of St. Nicholas of Myra, known as the Russian Church. The priest had been living for five years here and working both in Bulgaria and North Macedonia, before he was expelled from North Macedonia for spying, after which Bulgaria also expelled him. Atanasov labelled as scandalous the fact that Bulgaria only acted after North Macedonia, as he was confident that Bulgarian services were aware that the priest had been spying for the Kremlin.
Atanasov said: "This matter is to be clarified, definitely at the parliamentary Committee for Control of the Security Services. The leadership of the State Agency for National Security (SANS) should take their files and come and shed light on when he arrived, how he was caught and what measures were taken regarding this person, what was discovered. Once they decide to expel him, there is a backlog of information". The MP shared his concern that Bulgarian counter-intelligence may have chosen to turn a blind eye on the clergyman's spying.
Atanasov stated that the current head of SANS should tender his resignation, as he made a political statement after an interview with CC-DB Co-chair Kiril Petkov. Atanasov said: "One of the principles by which SANS is supposed to function, and this is specified in the Bulgarian law, is with political neutrality. No one in this office is allowed to take a political stand, let alone do so publicly. This is absolutely unacceptable".
Atanasov also commented his resignation from the parliamentary Committee for Control of the Security Services on September 20. He said: "After a debate, I received support from the other political parties that back the government for my intentions to introduce a bill on certain amendments to the way the country's security system functions. Subsequently, [GERB-UDF leader] Boyko Borissov, as the spokesperson of the largest political force that supports this government, took a different position. I do not see what the point for my work is, since my ideas that I think would benefit Bulgaria are not supported".