Deputy chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev said Tuesday that Nikolay Malinov, chairman of the National Russophile Movement, has been charged "with putting himself in the service of foreign organizations to work for them as a spy."
If found guilty, Malinov faces 15 years in prison. He was released on bail but is barred from leaving the country. Geshev said prosecutors found a document prepared by Malinov outlining "the steps needed to be taken to completely overhaul the geopolitical orientation of Bulgaria away from the West toward Russia."
Malinov was not immediately available for comment. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev called the charges against Malinov "very serious" but added that "undisputable evidence of wrongdoing" was needed. Bulgaria, Moscow's closest ally during the Cold War, has joined NATO and the European Union in the last decade but is still almost totally dependent on Russian energy supplies.
The charges against Malinov come after a diplomatic quarrel between Sofia and Moscow, which was sparked by an exhibition that the Russian embassy opened on Monday marking the "liberation of Eastern Europe from Nazism."
In an unusually strong statement, Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry advised the Russian embassy to not support the "dubious" historical claim that Bulgaria was liberated by Soviet forces in 1944. "Soviet army bayonets brought to the people of Central and Eastern Europe half a century of repression, a suppression of civil conscience, deformed economic development and detachment from developed European countries," the ministry said.