The Bulgarian government opens an inquiry on the sanctions against Russia

An investigation is underway into the Bulgarian government’s handling of EU sanctions against Russia, the prosecutor’s office said on Friday, April 28, when Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev was on a visit to Moldova and Ukraine.

The key issue is that neither Russian individuals nor organizations listed on the EU sanctions list are the subject of penalties by Bulgaria. Following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the EU started enforcing sanctions against it.

Nearly 1,400 Russian citizens, more than 170 businesses, and all associated people and entities have received sanctions from the EU thus far. Over €300 billion in Russian bank accounts as well as €20 billion in oligarchs’ assets were frozen by EU nations last year. All of these actions were taken in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Even Hungary, which often takes a stand in favor of Russia, has frozen Russian assets worth more than 900 million euros. In Bulgaria, almost 300,000 Russians own more than 500,000 properties, according to the latest data from the authorities in 2019.

In Bulgaria, the National Revenue Agency is responsible for imposing sanctions, although it has not issued a single sanctions act in the past eight years.

The investigative website Bird.bg has already published the names of some Russians who own real estate in Bulgaria, particularly on the Black Sea, through their relatives and are on the EU sanctions list. Among them are Sergei Chemezov, Maxim Topilin, Vladimir Plugin, and Alexei Chepa, Bird.bg reported last April.

“The fact that Bulgaria does not appear to enforce EU sanctions against people or businesses from the Russian Federation is not surprising. It is clear that the Bulgarian authorities lack the will, capability, and procedures to impose sanctions”, according to Ruslan Stefanov of the Bulgarian think tank Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), who made the statement in February.

This week, GERB MP Delian Dobrev made unnamed claims that Russian oligarchs were laundering millions of dollars through a Bulgarian bank. The State Security Service was tasked to look into the case, the prosecutor’s office declared a day later.

“The prosecutor’s office is requesting information from the Council of Ministers and all ministries and agencies participating in the Coordination Group (on sanctions against Russia) on specific measures taken, actions, and acts issued in connection with the sanctions imposed,” the prosecutor’s office stated on Friday.

Valdis Dombrovskis, vice president of the European Commission, stated this during his visit to Sofia in late February: “The European Commission wants EU countries to report on their actions regarding the implementation of sanctions against Russia.”

At the time, he stated, “The objective is to have a better understanding of these assets, and if they are confiscated, they can be used to rebuild Ukraine.”

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