British police charged three Bulgarian nationals on Tuesday with possessing false identity documents as part of a larger national security investigation into Russian espionage efforts. Local officials have not yet confirmed evidence of spying, but British Metropolitan Police announced that the suspects were among five people arrested in February for counterterrorism offenses under the Official Secrets Act.
According to the BBC, all three accused individuals first appeared in court in July for working with Russian security services. The suspects—Orlin Roussev, Biser Dzambazov, and Katrin Ivanova—allegedly possessed passports and other identity documents for the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain. They also are accused of having forged press cards and clothes bearing Discovery and National Geographic TV channel logos to carry out surveillance operations in London as well as Germany and Montenegro.
If that wasn’t enough, Roussev’s LinkedIn said he served as a strategic advisor to the Bulgarian Ministry of Energy before owning a signals and artificial intelligence agency. And Dzambazov and Ivanova worked for electoral commissions in the United Kingdom that helped expatriates vote in Bulgarian elections. (Oh, and locals said the couple brought cakes and pies to their neighbors in a sign of good ol’ British charm.)
No plea has been entered yet, but British police said all three Bulgarian nationals are set to stand trial in January. If convicted under the Identity Documents Act, they could face up to 10 years in prison. If convicted under the Official Secrets Act, that sentence could increase to 14 years.
This is far from London’s first stint in countering Russian espionage attempts. Last month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak passed a new national security law that toughens criminal proceedings and investigation tools against those accused of spying. Moscow itself was deemed the United Kingdom’s “most acute threat.” And for the first time ever in the U.K., foreign interference was labeled a crime.
More than 400 alleged Russian spies were expelled from Europe in 2022, Britain’s domestic spy chief acknowledged last November. That doesn’t include some of London’s biggest intelligence wins, including charging three Russians with the 2018 attempted murder of former double agent Sergei Skripal.
Alexandra Sharp, Foreign Policy.