Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate has been organising explosions in Europe since 2011. These include the bombing of ammunition and weapons depots in Bulgaria, The Insider reported.
The journalists found that all those responsible for the explosions in the European countries remained unpunished. Moreover, some of the special forces later began working for the Kremlin.
Who is behind the explosions in Europe?
Russian General Andrei Averyanov is currently a member of Russian delegations and attends various summits, including the Russia-Africa summit held in St Petersburg in late July. The investigation says he is the head of GRU unit 29155, which was involved in the explosions in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic and poisoned people the Kremlin needed with Novichok.
This unit, headed by Averyanov, is also behind the poisoning of the Skripal family and Bulgarian businessman Gebrev, who owns one of the country’s largest arms companies.
During the investigation, journalists found that the case of the explosions had been going on since 2008. That year, Averyanov became the head of the 29155 unit, which would carry out blasts in Europe. At that time, he recruited about 70 people for sabotage operations abroad.
Averyanov first went on a “business trip” in September 2009 to Dushanbe. At that time, relations between Russia and Tajikistan began deteriorating due to the Kremlin’s use of the 201st military base. After this visit, Averyanov started travelling to Europe: Warsaw, Belgrade, and Chisinau. All these “business trips” took place in early 2011.
After returning from Moldova, Averyanov began working with the unit on radio-controlled explosive devices. The GRU fighters prepared several types of such devices, which had different action ranges – some were triggered 300 metres from the detonator, and some were 700 metres. Russian intelligence officers created models that gave them between 5 and 55 minutes to leave the explosion site.
The first ammunition explosions in Bulgaria
“After the Russian intelligence officers developed the ‘theory’, they started to move on to practice.” In October 2011, the GRU learned that the Bulgarian company EMCO, owned by Omelyan Gebrev, had purchased about 1,000 Soviet-era artillery munitions from Slovakia, which had written them off in 2009 as it transitioned to NATO standards.
Russia believed Bulgaria would sell the ammunition to Georgia and was very concerned. Russia had annexed Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008 and assumed it would try to regain these regions.
At the time, the Bulgarian company EMCO had no contracts with Georgia, but Gebrev said that the country could have become a likely buyer. He also noted that 6,000 rounds of ammunition were stored in a warehouse in the Czech Republic in the village of Vrbetice. Between 4 October and 4 November 2011, the shells were to be transported to Bulgaria. That’s when Averyanov’s group began preparing for the explosion.
The Russian scouts arrived in Slovakia on 10 October 2011 under false names. They landed at Bratislava airport, while Averyanov arrived in Vienna on 12 October 2011. The Russian special forces arrived in other countries, as they could have travelled to Vrbetice in just a few hours. By the way, Averyanov’s phone was connected to the Czech network the very next day, on 13 October, and the head of the unit returned to Moscow on 18 October.
On 25 October, the largest batch of artillery shells was transported to Bulgaria. How Russian intelligence officers accessed the warehouses where the ammunition was stored is unknown. However, on the morning of 12 November 2011, a powerful explosion occurred in the Bulgarian village of Lovnidol.
The ammunition depot, where EMCO stored more than 3,000 artillery shells, blew up. A massive fire engulfed a large area, and for 10 days, even rescuers could not get close to the explosion site because some shells continued to detonate.
About 5 months later, investigators discovered an improvised explosive device nearby that had not detonated. It was located 200 metres from the ammunition depot. Although law enforcement officers found the explosives, the case was closed 3 years later due to “lack of evidence”.
The Lovnidola sabotage was the first operation of the Russian intelligence unit 29155 in Europe. When Averyanov and his subordinates were not punished, they continued their subversive activities.
Less than a year later, an ammunition depot exploded again in Bulgaria. On 5 June 2012, powerful explosions occurred near the town of Stralja. At the time, the warehouse was storing shells planned to be sent to Georgia. At the time, the prosecutor’s office did not find any evidence, so three employees of the company that managed the warehouses were punished. They were accused of negligent storage of ammunition. Interestingly, Bulgaria’s law enforcement officials ignored that this explosion was preceded by the arrival of Russian intelligence officers in the country.
On 6 March 2015, a few days before the new explosions, Averyanov’s subordinate flew to Bulgaria again. He stayed in the country for 11 days. After the Russian special forces officer left Bulgaria, a powerful explosion occurred in a warehouse near the village of Iganovo.
More than 2,000 missiles and anti-tank grenades were stored there to be sent to Ukraine. Law enforcement officers collected a lot of evidence at the time, but it was strangely destroyed in a fire on 31 May 2015. Interestingly, another Russian GRU special forces officer had visited Bulgaria before the fire.
After the explosions, Russian GRU officers got political appointments
Russia highly appreciated the work of the GRU in Europe, so intelligence officers began to receive high positions. Thus, Nikolay Yezhov, who participated in all special operations in Bulgaria, became the chief federal inspector of the Far Eastern Magadan district.
Another agent, Rustam Dzhafarov, was appointed Putin’s first deputy representative in the Russian Far East. By the way, Dzhafarov was directly involved in the warehouse explosions. Another intelligence agent, Sergei Romanov, worked as Russia’s trade representative in Thailand for almost 10 years.
Only one member of the 29155 military unit continues to work for the GRU. We are talking about Vladimir Moiseev. Journalists identified him during the failed coup in Montenegro. In addition, Moiseev took part in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. According to The Insider, he was tasked with eliminating Ukraine’s political leadership and working on occupying the territories.
Source: The Insider (article in Russian)