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Bulgaria Detains One Russian, Two Lithuanians Over Alleged Espionage At Arms Maker


The ministry described the missing information as "extremely sensitive for the company and of interest to Bulgarian or foreign competing companies." (illustrative photo)

Three foreign employees of Bulgaria's biggest weapons maker, Arsenal, have been detained on suspicion of exporting "sensitive information" about the company's manufacturing plant.

The Bulgarian Interior Ministry said on October 7 that all three -- two Lithuanians, a man and a woman, and a Russian man -- held senior positions and handled innovative technologies at Arsenal, which makes small arms, artillery systems, gunpowder, and ammunition.

The company reported to the Interior Ministry on October 3 that "specific products" and related documents had gone missing and that the three suspects did not return to work as scheduled on September 17 after unpaid leave.

The ministry described the missing information as "extremely sensitive for the company and of interest to Bulgarian or foreign competing companies."

The suspects reentered Bulgaria from abroad on October 2 and traveled to the city of Kazanlak, where Arsenal's main plant is located, before they were detained at a southern border checkpoint with Greece on October 5, the Interior Ministry said.

All three are expected to be transferred to regional police custody in Kazanlak to face charges.

The industrial espionage accusations come five months after Bulgarian prosecutors began investigating possible Russian links to the poisoning of arms dealer Emilian Gebrev in 2015 and deadly explosions at Bulgarian weapons depots and manufacturing plants between 2011 and 2020.

One of those deadly blasts, in 2014, struck an Arsenal weapons complex, killing one person.

In April, Czech officials disclosed suspected links between Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents and a deadly explosion at a Czech ammunition depot in 2014, sparking diplomatic expulsions and denials from Moscow.

Subsequent evidence has placed some of those GRU agents in Bulgaria around the time of some of the Bulgarian incidents.

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    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.

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