Russia’s weaponization of corruption—its export of corrupt practices via the abuse of western legal and financial loopholes in order to further its geopolitical goals—has stimulated anti-American sentiment in Europe and galvanized extremist forces on both sides of the Atlantic. While Moscow pushes its anti-globalization narrative, it is simultaneously taking advantage of globalization to export its own version of crony capitalism to many countries in the OSCE region. -Arthur Paul Massaro III is a senior policy advisor for the U.S. Helsinki Commission, also known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where his portfolio includes counter-corruption, human rights, sanctions, illicit finance and energy security. Massaro has been involved in creating various anti-corruption and human rights reforms and shepherding them through the legislative system.
Bulgaria has been plagued by corruption and institutional decay for more than 35 years. Not only is it the most corrupt country in Europe, but it has also been called, not undeservedly, Russia's Trojan Horse in the EU. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the Bulgarian elite, which successfully mimicked after the fall of Communism, has nervously used the ideological billets (ethnic nationalism and radical Orthodoxy) provided by Moscow as a shield against potentially being held accountable for its disruptive actions from within against NATO and the EU.
Bulgaria has significant issues with corruption and was named 2020’s most corrupt country in the European Union by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. Media freedom is under threat and the country has been dubbed the black sheep of the European Union by Reporters Without Borders.
Modern Bulgaria is a product of Corrupt Systems
The economic system of Communism is a Central Planned Economy, giving all power to the state and its vast bureaucratic apparatus. Free trade, personal initiative and the market in general were illegal, with all market activities being qualified as a crime. Communism was a system built on privilege, in which returning a favor through a gift or other favor-which in the West is considered corruption and a crime-was part of the economic system under Communism. It was therefore very difficult to distinguish between legitimate exchange and theft after the so-called "fall of Communism" and the transition to a Market Economy. A series of economic reforms were simply efforts by the communist elite, caught in a new economic reality, to normalize and legalize theft from the state, as it had been under Communism. Through the so-called privatisation, the communist bureaucrats became oligarchs in a very short time, through the same state they were part of, and a competition between them began, but they competed for state aid and Euro Funds.
The Bulgarian Communist Elite, played the role of buffer and satellite of the USSR, which de facto remained unchanged after 1989, only there was a period of readaptation. But despite all this it remained an echo of its Russian brethren. The Russian economy after the collapse of the USSR took on a purely rentier character, the Russian state as a consequence of its dependence on oil and gas; there was no need for a social contract with the citizens, as state revenues were not dependent on taxes. In the same way, the Bulgarian economy tried to rent its population and natural attractions (tourism) without making any investment in human resources. While tourism has turned into third rate alcohol tourism, and billions have been siphoned off through it. The regimes that run this type of kleptocracy usually formulate their narratives in terms of ethnic nationalism or racism combined with "family values" (misogyny and homophobia), which is what Bulgaria has become with the rule of a small group of rebranding political actors after joining the EU and accessing huge Euro Funding.
The Bulgarian Opposition, shamelessly like the Russian Comedians
One of the most provocative figures in Bulgaria in 2022 and 2023, the journalist Hristo Grozev, awarded an Oscar for his film about Navalny in January 2023, stood up in an online link to the Parliament of Bulgaria. He made the shocking announcement, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations. Navalny, Russian style Opposition, Nationalists and Bulgaria (theangel.today)
Grozev(few months ago, he claimed to be on Putin's kill list, but unknown to anyone why Putin had spared to put him on paper only to allow him to create a noisy PR) created another Hollywood truther hypothesis that in April 2016, Russia tried to overthrow the government in Sofia. According to his account, Russian military intelligence (GRU) planned the coup, which was to be carried out by two paramilitary groups, similar to the coup attempt in Montenegro that year. Grozev's testimony suggests that the government of the time - led by Boyko Borissov and his GERB party - was tiptoeing around the issue of Russian involvement in Bulgaria even before the coup. But although the coup attempt was discovered and stopped by accident, it seems to have made the government even more cautious about dealing with Russian influence in Bulgaria. Easy prey? Russia’s influence in Bulgaria – European Council on Foreign Relations (ecfr.eu)
With this de facto statement Grozev has polarized the Bulgarian Political Theater, allowing the Political Elite to continue a political spectacle(similar to the political plays played out in Russia, in which the Communist Elite simply mimic from one form to another), in the way it has pleasingly positioned itself for 35 years since the fall of Communism- Pro Russian and Pro Western. Thus legitimizing two political parties- GERB and PP/DP for a future so-called "Pro West"Why the West is Failing(was it failed by...) in Bulgaria (theangel.today). Two parties with the same roots that had already ruled together under different forms.
Grozev's investigation was based on several explosions in military factories in 2014- 2016. Explosions that were not officially seen in Bulgaria as just an accounting fraud, a way to hide weapons that had already been sold. He also pointed out that there are Russian agents in Bulgarian media, politics and business. A claim that sounds naive and superficial (which by the way is typical of various reports presenting the picture in Bulgaria to the West. The way the Russian Opposition worked for more than 30 years, claiming to be the opposition. But at the end of the day, with the war in Ukraine, if one thing is for sure, it was realised that the opposition in Russia is much weaker than the opposition that was in Afghanistan. Even though Russia actually gained not only enormous funding but also know how to build opposition regimes. ), more so from someone who has such a rich history and deep knowledge. After all Bulgaria, which was the only country in Eastern Europe that allowed the Communist Regime to be preserved. At the Provincial level, Russia has no need for agents because it has not only the Elites but also enormous public support through preserved or rebuilt cultural, religious and social bridges.
The "expert" who compiled the publication is part of the NGO sectror in Bulgaria (which is largely a product of the Euro Funding in Bulgaria, and remains an indifferent observer and de facto accomplice for most things that happen in the countryside of BulgariaChild Soldiers- Para Military Bulgarian Russian Organization from Pazardzhik (theangel.today)), to the anti-government protests (related to the huge corruption rampant in Bulgaria and the huge abuse of Euro funding) against the same party GERB against which the protest parties did nothing (except theatrical PR actions), and are about to coalition. Vessela Tcerneva was Deputy Director Foreign Policy Advisor to the Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
The person who was responsible in 2022 for the Foreign Policy of the "Pro Western Forces in Bulgaria" associated with the USA, and the person who is currently is deputy for European Council on Foreign Relations - Vesela Cherneva in an interview for the Bulgarian National Television in 2020, in which in a similar manner to Macron says that the US does not act as an ally of Europe.
Kiril Petkov was the face of the change promoted by President Rumen Radev. Initially, he was a caretaker economic minister in Rumen Radev's cabinet, as he was announced by the President that we need such young and educated people to bring about change in Bulgaria. This was followed by elections and a government of the Harvard-educated Petkov in which he was in coalition with the BSP (the former communist party) and a populist party supporting the president's copy of the 5 stars from Italy. A new series of elections followed, all the time the main enemy was the "corrupt" GERB and Boyko Borissov who had ruled for 13 years(almost the whole period of Bulgaria's EU membership and the huge accession funds).
When it came in 2022 to the butafor arrest of Borissov, on evidence collected by Kiril Petkov of Google, over 20 articles in the search engine showing that Borissov is corrupt.
At a conference(30/03/2023) with the leader of the European People's Party Boyko Borissov accused Kiril Petkov and his government of giving 5 billion leva to Putin through energy intermediaries.
To come to 18/04/2023, after the fifth consecutive election and legislative coalition between Kiril Petkov and Boyko Borisov.
The new legislative coalition negotiated 30 laws. One of the chief negotiators was Harvard-educated lawyer Lena Borilavova.
Lena Borilavova, who was the chief negotiator for the new Legislative Coalition, was one of the main critics of Boyko Borissov's system, for its ties with the Kremlin and for the corruption that Bulgaria had developed.
But all this remained at the level of social networks and collages for more than two years. The Party of Change, which for more than two years played out political theater on Instagram and Facebook, but in reality did absolutely nothing about the corruption and the Kremlin's tentacles that have gripped Bulgaria. Not only that, the Change Party itself in the countryside, (far away from the Western Embassies) filled up with people close to GERB or with children of GERB leaders, turning them into a natural feudal extension. Read more why the West completely failed in Bulgaria. Why the West is Failing(was it failed by...) in Bulgaria (theangel.today)
Bulgarian Ministry of Finance and Dubai Connection
Vladislav Goranov is the embodiment of GERB and Boyko Borissov's rule. He was Deputy Minister of Finance for one term and Minister of Finance for two terms, the man who managed Bulgaria's finances for almost 12 years. On February 10th, 2023 it was revealed that he was one of seven individuals under the Global Magnitsky sanctions program and the Department of State's public designation. The United States, in coordination with the United Kingdom, is taking action to counter systemic corruption in Bulgaria by designating five former Bulgarian government officials as well as five entities for corrupt acts that resulted in illicit personal gain, undermined the country's democratic institutions, and perpetuated its corrosive dependence on Russian energy sources.
The sanctions against Goranov are for involvement in significant corruption under Section 7031(c) of the annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act. As a result of these actions, those individuals and their immediate family members are generally ineligible for entry into the United States. Countering Systemic Corruption in Defense of Bulgarian Democratic Institutions - United States Department of State
The Role of the Bulgarian Intellectual Elite and Corruption in Bulgaria
Bulgarian Intellectuals, through the huge funds poured from the Bulgarian State Budget in the last 15 years, have been transformed on the model of Russia (Culture Fund) into completely dependent on the State. I will use one name as an example- Boyan Angelov- he has been a member of the Supreme Council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (former Communist Party) for two terms, making him one of the most influential people in Bulgaria. Boyan Angelov is on the Board of the all-powerful institution (the central institution distributing hundreds of millions in cultural projects, making Bulgarian culture, art and literature 100% dependent on the state) in Bulgaria - the Culture Fund - operating with hundreds of millions of funds from the cultural budget and setting trends in contemporary Bulgarian culture, which is financially completely dependent on its funding. Since 1990, Boyan has been the editor-in-chief of the magazine "People's Chitalishte Libraries", and from 1994 to 2002 he was the vice-chairman of the Union of People's Chitalishte Libraries. He is the chairman of the foundation "People's community libraries-1870". There are 3614 registered People's Chitalishte Libraries in Bulgaria, which differ from the library network, but are financed by budget funds, as well as rely on projects from the Culture Fund. Since the beginning of 2013 he has been the director of the Bulgarian Writer Publishing House. When we talk about Bulgaria and Bulgarian culture, we talk about the Culture Fund and the Ministry of Culture, we must not forget that we are talking about hundreds of millions every year that are spent unaccountably. And all these huge funds from the EU go to finance Bulgarian culture, which for 35 years has been based on nostalgia for Socialism, rejecting all the principles of the Market Economy and Democratic Liberalism.
100 public figures and intellectuals have signed a declaration on April 2023 for the need a government to be formed in "West style alience". Between the old GERB (Boyko Borisov) and the new Reformers, who are connected to GERB on many levels anyway. Among them are such personalities as Vladi Vargala:Над 100 общественици и интелектуалци призоваха проевропейските партии да съставят кабинет - България - DarikNews.bg
Vladi Vargala is part of the homophobic referendum(the core of which are famous public figures from the circle of the Bulgarian Socialist Party) initiated by a large number of leaders of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, aimed at banning LGBTQ propaganda in Bulgaria. Exhibition of Degenerate Art- The New Bulgarian National Socialism (theangel.today)
The most prominent intellectual from Pazardzhik, candidate MP of the Reformist New Party of Change, director of the Department of Culture at the Pazardzhik Municipality during the same GERB against which the protests were, director of the most elite school, director of the House of Young Communists until the fall of Communism, the writer Georgi Spasov. Architect of Contemporary Culture in Pazardzhik- Georgi Spassov (theangel.today)
Georgi Spasov was appointed as Director of Culture in Pazardzhik by Mayor Todor Popov, who has governed Pazardzhik almost from the moment of EU accession. It was during Georgi Spasov's time that Pazardzhik began educational and cultural exchanges with Russia, and a Para Military Youth Organization was formed and started to operate in Pazardzhik, which conducted its military training in Russia by Russian military instructors.Child Soldiers- Para Military Bulgarian Russian Organization from Pazardzhik (theangel.today)
One of the noisiest journalistic investigations of National Media (in the regional ones there is complete silence and fear) was about the huge multi-million house of the mayor of Pazardzhik, Todor Popov, who gravitates and is supported by GERB. Two years after the protests, and the parties of change, in Pazardzhik Mayor Todor Popov is preparing for another fourth term, which will make him the longest reigning mayor in Bulgaria. As in a recent interview (which confirmed his place on the Freedom of Speech in Bulgaria- one of the last in the World according to Reporters Without Borders) he said that his style of governance is quite feudal. For reference, his mayoral salary in Bulgaria is much less than the minimum in London, UK.
Bulgaria as an offshore company for Russia
The US sanctions against several Bulgarian politicians is for corruption and because of the penetration and influence of the Russian Energy Sector. But Pazardzhik also has much to be proud of, even though it has so far gone unnoticed for the Magnitsky sanctions.
The country was shocked by the appearance of Ginka Varbakova on the energy scene as a buyer of the assets of the Czech energy company in Bulgaria. The deal went through many phases. Including the government wanted to partner the unknown businesswoman from Pazardzhik, as if to be able to back out later. In the political phase, Prime Minister Borissov (GERB) talked about the "bastards" who still want to overthrow him through the Energy Distribution Company CEZ. The Czech media made numerous investigations, did not stop writing about the involvement of Russian-Georgian businessmen, "slander" (according to Varbakova herself)....while in Bulgaria there is still media silence. There was also a commission of inquiry in parliament, which traditionally did almost no work, and never got to the real sources of the funding.
The same Ginka Varbanova is now the owner of the biggest Solar Park, which is located near Pazardzhik. And, as she mentioned, she has negotiated a 250 million leva investment for the park with the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, which is part of the Eurasian portfolio of Russia and whose president is the Russian politician and economist Dimitri Parkin, deputy minister of finance of the Russian Federation, and ex head of the Federal service of financial markets of the Russian Federation. Най-големият действащ соларен парк в страната е край Пазардж... (marica.bg)
A similar scheme was used in the purchase of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (a conglomerate from the communist era, controlling all underground data transmission lines in Bulgaria with a huge real estate base) in 2016 - again an offshore company, again a loan, in this case it was an open secret in Bulgaria from whom it was borrowed - the Russian state bank VTB. This is, unfortunately, a very bad trend - that in fact the major assets in Bulgaria are being bought by companies with very unclear ownership and with very unclear origin of the money. Почти 1/2 от сделката за ЧЕЗ е финансирана с кредити от офшорки, твърди чешка медия | Икономика | tech.offnews.bg
A similar scheme was used in the purchase of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (a conglomerate from the communist era, controlling all underground data transmission lines in Bulgaria with a huge real estate base) in 2016 - again an offshore company, again a loan, in this case it was an open secret in Bulgaria from whom it was borrowed - the Russian state bank VTB. This is, unfortunately, a very bad trend - that in fact the major assets in Bulgaria are being bought by companies with very unclear ownership and with very unclear origin of the money.
In 2018, Bulgaria saw an unprecedented crisis- the Commercial Register servers were destroyed- due to the high summer temperatures. For 18 days, there was no data on companies and businesses in Bulgaria. Then followed a mystery, what and how exactly was recovered. "Да, България": Премиерът да поеме отговорност за кризата в Агенцията по вписванията - Mediapool.bg
Ginka Varbakova's photovoltaic parks raised eco voices in Pazardzhik. In December, 2022, the Pazardzhik City Council offered for sale the forest around the city for its biodiversity. The forest covers more than 800 acres and is a naturally wooded area with a rich diversity of plant species. In addition to being one of the last natural green filters near Pazardzhik, the forest is also a natural breeding habitat for small and medium-sized game. Such deals have already been made by companies around Ginka Varbakova.
And at the same time, an international program was launched in Pazardzhik under a 250,000 euro EU program to exchange Eco experiences between Bulgaria and neighboring Balkan countries. The project is "Application of an activity-based training concept to address urban air and water pollution challenges", short name: "YOUNG ECO INSPECTORS", project No.: 2022-1-BG01-KA220-SCH-000087846.
According to the medias, "In the course of the project's work, new curricula will be developed based on the application of a multidisciplinary concept of environmental education, including activities that use technology and "on the ground" activities (collecting real data), software applications to present the results obtained, perform data analysis, develop critical thinking and find the best environmental solutions."
Billions Drained from Healthcare
I will give a few examples from the life of ordinary Bulgarians and the multi-billion corruption in healthcare. Because corruption has different effects, not only enriching, but also disempowering the citizens in Bulgaria (killing in the bud any civil society).
In 2016, after a medical audit at the Oncology Hospital in Plovdiv, which showed that a large part (over 51%) of the diagnoses of the chief doctor were wrong, and this led to the removal of organs of healthy women. The safest is removing breasts and organs from women. With each surgery completely filling the doctor's schedule, huge funds are obtained from the Health Insurance Fund. His rights as a medical practitioner were revoked, but reinstated after a year, after huge medical solidarity. The Minister of Health, Petar Moskov (one of the main reformist and democratic figures in the new Bulgarian history), in a follow-up confirmed that everything was functioning well in the hospital.
A doctor from Pazardzhik performed heart surgeries on healthy patients to drain money from the Health Insurance Fund
In 2019, the Specialized Prosecutor's Office investigated itself after the investigation of the NOVA TV journalist. A doctor at the state hospital in Pazardzhik takes 57 000 leva monthly salary. He was putting stents on both sick and healthy patients. But this is only a small part of the picture in health care in Bulgaria, where corruption costs thousands of lives every year.
2021, investigation after multiple nursing home deaths. Turns out the owners have a complete death circle- they own a funeral agency, a private ambulance and a private hospital.Overall, the huge damage to the corruption-ridden Health System in Bulgaria suffers not only the budget and Bulgarian citizens, but also foreign tourists on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast should be careful not to fall into the nets of NHS crooks undisturbed by anyone. The abuses during the COVID crisis were shameful, ranking Bulgaria first in the EU in terms of mortality due to corruption. Just for reference, in 1999 the first budget of the Treasury was about 900 million BGN, the population of Bulgaria was about 7.5 million, enough money to maintain the system. Today the health expenditure is 7 billion (budget for 2022), the population of the territory of Bulgaria is two million less (according to unofficial figures even more, due to wrong information in the census based on address registrations left from the communist times, not reflecting at all the real demographic picture), the money is not enough for anything. As again, by non-official figures, corruption and abuse in health care is about 4 and a half billion a year. За "докторския" рекет по Черноморието лечение няма - Национален седмичник за финанси, икономика и политика |] (banker.bg)
The big question is who are the real owners of the big private hospitals in Bulgaria, through which a huge part of the Health Budget is absorbed? Because assuming that Bulgaria is a proxy that acts as an Offshore when necessary, who is really behind the huge drain of Funds?
Why is the information coming from Bulgaria manipulated and false?
According to Reporters Without Borders, Bulgaria is one of the last in the world in terms of freedom of speech. But the purely subjective motivation is overlooked. There is a huge number of journalists in Bulgaria who are simply personally motivated because of the cruelty and arrogance of the kleptocratic regime. The same motivation is shared by a large number of citizens voting for the Pro-Russian parties, who simply want justice and retribution for the crimes and humiliations to which they have been subjected.
Nostalgia for a decent life and the desire for justice and retribution is the main thing that drives citizens(and elections, which many believe are rigged, by the same corrupt elite) into the arms of Russia's pro-Russian sentiment and sphere of influence. Because if Bulgaria does not deal with the Corruption and the Quasi Feudal Model of Governance in which the Communist Elite simply reincarnates in various forms, the price to be paid in Bulgaria will be no different than in Ukraine.
Even if we have to talk about the elections of 02/04/2023, in which the third political force is Pro Russian Revival, which is methodically increasing its voters. And which, according to unofficial data, enjoys an absolute majority in Bulgaria, and the election results are simply attempts by the corrupt elite to get as much Euro Funds and reconstruction funds as possible. In the Bulgarian that through the media is inculcated Russian style Traditionalism and Patriotism, it fails to note worrying societal trends.
In Conclusion- Mimicry and Zero Law
European Union institutions and member states have been concerned about corruption in Bulgaria for many years, even before the formation of the first GERB government in 2009. In the period 2018-2021, Bulgaria has not opened a single investigation, opened a single case and closed a single case. What happened in Bulgaria was similar to the maneuvers in other such kleptocracies(e.g. Pakistan)- Regrouping the Old Elites and infusing some fresh blood. But Zero results by adding new corrupt practices.