The owner of Emco, a Bulgarian manufacturer that produces Soviet munitions, has sounded the alarm over continuous Russian sabotage against his arms manufacturing facilities and alleged Russian infiltration in Bulgaria’s government.

Emilian Gebrev, in an interview with the Financial Times, voiced his concerns over the overall security of Bulgaria and NATO as Russian Intelligence Directorate (GRU) agents continue to attack his factories and depots that supply the much-needed munitions to Ukraine.

Gebrev previously survived two assassination attempts that involved the use of nerve agents similar to that used in assassinating former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.

He also claimed that Russian intelligence had infiltrated the Bulgarian government, as authorities have thus far been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to investigate and establish the exact circumstances behind the attacks on his facilities.


“Bulgaria [has been] too exposed and relaxed, offering a convenient environment for the GRU agents to operate freely,” said Gebrev.

“There has been no result whatsoever in any of more than a dozen cases, involving Russian terrorist acts and spy networking in Bulgaria,” Gebrev added. “All the investigations have been either stopped or stalled and none has been brought to court.”

There have been multiple explosions at Emco facilities since 2011, including an explosion at a depot in June this year. Bulgarian authorities have registered at least four incidents where shipments destined for Ukraine and Georgia were destroyed.

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According to Veselin Ivanov, a spokesman for the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office, six GRU officers have been charged over the incidents. However, he also cited difficulties in bringing them to justice as Russia does not extradite its citizens.

While it is not possible to ascertain the claims of Russian infiltration in the Bulgarian government, Bulgaria remains one of the most corrupt countries in the EU, and speculations arose that the lack of judiciary competence has turned it into a breeding ground for Russian interference.


The Dutch government also cited the abundance of corruption and organized crimes in its decision to block Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen zone.

However, the new coalition government elected in July this year, has vowed to crack down on Russian influence in its security sector.

Bulgaria has been a NATO member since 2004. It is one of the few countries capable of producing Soviet munitions outside of Russia due to its communist past, and the war in Ukraine has witnessed a surge in Bulgarian weapons production.

Emco in particular is one of the few companies producing Soviet 125mm tank shells outside of Russia that are used by Ukraine in its fight against Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

“Both state-owned and private sector defense facilities are operating at their maximum capacity. We’ve managed to double our output within a year,” explained Bulgarian Economic Minister Bogdan Bogdanov.

But in a recent update, the EU has failed to uphold its munition pledge of one million shells to Ukraine due to the “deplorable state of the defense industry.” It is not known if incidents involving Emco facilities contributed to the situation.


Bulgaria’s historical ties to Russia have led to questions on the country’s position on the war in Ukraine, with 58 percent of Bulgarians opposing financing the purchase and supply of military equipment to Ukraine despite a general sentiment to support the country, according to a survey.

The war in Ukraine might have served as a wake-up call for the Bulgarian government as well as it is now rapidly modernizing and westernizing its military.

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