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Overnight Explosion Rocks Ammunition Depot In Bulgaria

The ammunition depot where the blast occurred is owned by Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev, who nearly died after a 2015 poisoning attack in which the Kremlin was implicated. (file photo)

SOFIA -- An explosion early on July 31 blasted an ammunition depot owned by arms dealer Emilian Gebrev, Bulgarian state news agency BTA reported.

The blast occurred at around 3:30 a.m. local time at the EMCO ammunition depot near the city of Karnobat in southeastern Bulgaria.

No injuries were reported and the fire was quickly extinguished, BTA reported.

Gebrev told BNR Radio that the warehouse stored ammunition that had been ordered by companies but not yet paid for.

He said the cause of the blast had not yet been determined.

In April 2021, Bulgaria expelled a Russian diplomat after the country's authorities said they suspected six Russian citizens of involvement in a series of blasts that hit four weapons and armament facilities over the previous 10 years.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry “declared one more Russian diplomat persona non grata and requested the law-enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation to provide full assistance to the Bulgarian authorities” in their investigation into the blasts, the ministry said at the time.

Bulgarian prosecutors said in April 2021 that there was a “reasonable assumption” that the blasts that rocked the four warehouses and production facilities in Bulgaria between 2011 and 2020 were connected to the near-fatal poisoning of Gebrev in 2015.

Gebrev, who blamed the Russians for the attack, fell into a coma on April 28, 2015, with symptoms of severe poisoning. He survived the poisoning, as did his son and a company executive who were treated for similar symptoms.

It was not immediately clear why the Kremlin would target Gebrev, but In 2021, he told The New York Times that his company had shipped military equipment to Ukraine after 2014, when Kremlin-backed separatists began a still-ongoing war against Kyiv and Russia also illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

The poisoning case carried hallmarks of the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent in 2018 in Britain.

Moscow has denied it had any involvement in the Skripal poisoning, which led to a series of sanctions against Russia by the West and tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and other actions.

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    RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service

    RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service relaunched in 2019 after a 15-year absence, providing independent news and original analysis to help strengthen a media landscape weakened by the monopolization of ownership and corruption.