Bulgaria Issues Eu Entry Ban On 2 Russians Suspected Of Espionage

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian authorities on Monday imposed an entry ban on two Russian citizens suspected of espionage for Moscow’s foreign intelligence service.

Bulgaria's agency for national security identified the two as Vladimir Nikolayevich Gorochkin, 39, and Tatiana Anatolievna Gorochkina, 37, and barred them from entering European Union member states for a period of five years.

The agency said in a statement that the couple had lived undetected in Bulgaria until recently under the aliases Denis Rashkov and Diana Rashkova. The statement indicated they were no longer in Bulgaria, but did not elaborate on when they had left the country, or indicate where they currently were believed to be.

According to the agency, the Russians were part of an operation orchestrated by the Moscow’s Foreign Intelligence Service aimed at infiltrating foreign countries using false identities. Their mission in the EU member country was reportedly to obtain authentic Bulgarian identity documents and credible biographical data confirming their authenticity, which they could then use to carry out intelligence activities outside Bulgaria.

Last September, five Bulgarians living in the U.K. were charged with spying for Russia. The three men and two women were accused of “conspiring to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy,” namely Russia, between August 2020 and February 2023.

In 2022, Bulgaria expelled 70 Russian diplomatic staff in a move that severely strained diplomatic ties between the two countries, which were close allies during communist times. It was the greatest ever number of Russian diplomats expelled by Bulgaria, a member of the European Union and NATO.

Bulgaria has strongly backed the West’s sanctions against Moscow since Russia launched its war on Ukraine.