Bulgarian prosecutors have asked Russia to extradite 3 officers of the GRU, the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Russian armed forces, accused in Bulgaria of the Noviciok poisoning of arms dealer Emilian Ghebrev, his son and the production director of the Emco arms company, they announce Euractive.

Embassy of Russia in SofiaPhoto: Hristo Vladev/NurPhoto / Shutterstock Editorial / Profimedia

The request was made by the Sofia Prosecutor’s Office as part of the case of attempted murder initiated by the interim general prosecutor Borislav Sarafov, appointed in June of this year. Sarafov took over the case after the dismissal of Ivan Ghesev, Bulgaria’s powerful prosecutor general who was accused for years of turning a blind eye to high-level corruption and engaging in political infighting.

The 3 GRU agents that Bulgaria is investigating are named Serghei Fedotov, Gheorghi Gorshkov and Serghei Pavlov. Fedotov is also suspected of being involved in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain in 2018.

The identities of the 3 were first revealed by journalists from the investigative website Bellingcat while following the lead on the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent who fled to the UK.

The case of the poisoning of the Bulgarian businessman Emilian Ghebrev

During a reception organized in Sofia on April 28, 2015, Emilian Ghebrev fell into a coma after being the victim of poisoning, which he survived.

Bulgaria issued an international arrest warrant for the 3 suspects back in January 2020, when it formally charged them, but did not publicly reveal their identities at the time.

“Indictments have been issued against three Russian citizens for attempted premeditated murder,” the Sofia Prosecutor’s Office announced at the time.

Bulgarian prosecutors now say that the poisoning of Ghebrev, his son and the director of Gebrev’s Emco arms company took place after the doors of the businessman’s car were smeared with poison. As in the case of the poisoning of Skripal and the dissident Alexei Navalny, the 3 Bulgarians were poisoned with the neurotoxic agent Novichok.

At the same time, 6 other Russian intelligence officers are accused in Bulgaria of 4 explosions that took place at military depots in the country in the last 12 years, although their actual number is believed to be higher.

The warehouses contained ammunition and military equipment to be sent to Georgia and Ukraine.

Euractiv recalls, however, that the latest move by Bulgarian prosecutors regarding the extradition of GRU intelligence agents is rather a matter of protocol, as the Russian Constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens, regardless of the crimes they are accused of abroad.