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Bulgarian Prime Minister, British Envoy Discuss Links Between Skripal, Gebrev Cases

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (left) and Emma Hopkins, the British ambassador to Sofia, met on February 11.

The British ambassador to Sofia has discussed with top Bulgarian officials possible links between the 2015 poisoning of a local businessman in Bulgaria and last year’s nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.

Ambassador Emma Hopkins sat down on February 11 with Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov, and the director of the counterintelligence agency DANS, Dimiter Dimitrov.

The meeting follows a report alleging that a third suspect in the March 2018 nerve-agent attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, may have also been involved in the poisoning of Bulgarian businessman Emilian Gebrev in April 2015.

Speaking after the talks, Hopkins said that information about Gebrev’s poisoning had been discussed and that London and Sofia had been “closely” coordinating on the case for “several months.”

Emilian Gebrev in 2017
Emilian Gebrev in 2017

Tsatsarov said that the initial investigation into Gebrev’s poisoning had found traces of the highly toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos in his coffee and food at his home -- but no substance banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

A report published on February 7 by the British-based open-source investigation group Bellingcat said that a suspected Russian military intelligence agent, who traveled under the alias Sergei Vyacheslavovich Fedotov, arrived in Bulgaria just days before Gebrev fell into a coma with symptoms of severe poisoning.

Bellingcat, along with its Russian partner The Insider, said that Fedotov had also arrived in Britain two days before the Skripals were poisoned.

Gebrev, a veteran of the Bulgarian arms industry, survived the poisoning, as did his son and a company executive who were treated with similar symptoms.

The Skripals also survived after weeks in critical condition, but Dawn Sturgess, a woman who authorities said came in contact with the poison after her boyfriend found a fake perfume bottle containing it, died in July 2018.

British authorities have charged two Russian men identified by Bellingcat as agents of Russia's GRU intelligence services with carrying out the poisoning.

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

The Kremlin has also cast doubt on the findings of the new Bellingcat investigation.

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