Sofia’s prosecutor’s office ordered the country’s counterintelligence to begin an investigation into the activities of pro-Russian paramilitary groups after receiving information that this organization had committed crimes against the country.
BNO Shipka and BND Shipka, two Bulgarian-registered NGOs, are under the agency’s spotlight because of their ties to the so-called Levski military alliance and increased activity in Bulgaria after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
According to Bellingcat research, the two groups offer volunteers specialized training by former Russian special forces instructors, conduct anti-European and anti-NATO propaganda, promote illegitimate anti-government insurgency, ban political parties, and spread racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
In addition to openly declaring their intention to change the country’s constitutional order, they also organized a hunt for Syrian immigrants on Mount Strandja during the first refugee crisis and actively spread fake news during the pandemic.
“We protect the interests of our European and Euro-Atlantic partners. We cannot allow malicious Russian influence in Bulgaria,” commented Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev. At the same time, his department promised that more information will be provided after the investigation is completed.
A man under the pseudonym of Lieutenant Walter Kalashnikov claims to be the leader of these organizations. His real name is Doncho Rusev, and according to public information, he was born in 1959 in the village of Bulgarovo, graduated from the sergeant’s school in Shumen, and until 1981 served as a sergeant in the tank division in Aytos.
In 1996, Rusev appeared as the owner of the security company Walter Catani, which boasted that it had “convened” a meeting of leaders of a global security trust in Bulgaria with the participation of former Mossad, KGB and CIA officers.
Rusev also had many other business ventures, such as a newspaper, a sex shop, investment consulting, and cryptocurrencies, most of which failed.
He is also linked to a Facebook page called “Bulgaria and Russia – One History, One Language, One Faith, One People”, which is used by the pro-Russian populist party “Renaissance” to distribute campaign messages and advertisements.