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Bulgaria, Russian Media Environment

According to CEM Chairwoman Betina Zhoteva, Bulgaria has been fighting a propaganda war for a long time, which has intensified with the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

A number of Bulgarian media are paid by Russia but cannot be sanctioned. This was said on air of "On Focus" on NOVA by the chairwoman of the CEM Betina Joteva.

"A number of Bulgarian media receive payment from Russia in various forms. We are talking about newspapers and websites that receive, for example, advertising sponsorship or sponsorship for an event."

On the surface, it must seem that Russian propaganda in Bulgaria is a simple conspiracy theory about the Big Bad - the West (NATO, EU, Soros, "tolerationists", "genderists", protesters) and the Big Savior - Russia. Simply, society is supposedly divided into Russophiles and Russophobes, it would have to seem that there is some confrontation, one side intelligent, which is on the side of the Russian Opposition or just a copy of the "supposedly opposition in Russia". Although the opposition in Russia and Bulgaria, in reality does not differ significantly from the traditional matryoshkas. On the other simple-minded and aggressive.

But the iceberg is huge and all-encompassing.

The Big Media(Political) Moguls in Bulgaria

Bribery, corrupt practices, money laundering in Austria and buying Austrian or German politicians... just some of the headlines in the media, which at one point went completely silent...

The Big Russian Media Player in Bulgaria

There are many Russian oligarchs in Bulgaria playing different games, but one definitely stands out.

A majority stake in the largest telecoms company in Bulgaria has been bought by a group linked to an oligarch close to Putin, according to a probe by the investigative journalism outlet Bivol. Konstantin MalofeevThe Louvrier Investment Company (LIC33) announced on March 19 that it had bought shares in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, known as Vivacom AD, from previous owner Tsvetan Vassilev. LIC33’s chairman is Belgian-Russian businessman Pierre Louvrier, and its website lists a company address in Paris which Bivol, an OCCRP partner, discovered is a rented mailbox. According to Bivol, no company with the name LIC33 legally exists in France and it is unclear where the group is registered. Louvrier, a vocal supporter of the Russian annexation of Crimea, has close ties to Gerard Depardieu, a French actor who recently embraced his Russian roots and was granted citizenship in 2013. Louvrier maintains connections to several other Bulgaria-based companies, including military defense producer Dunarit and aircraft repair company Avionams. According to Bivol, Louvrier has partnered with Russian mogul Konstantin Malofeev in technology investments planned through his company CFG Capital and Malofeev’s firm Marshall Capital. Malofeev, whom Bivol calls the “busboy of Putin”, has been sanctioned by Canada and the European Union for allegedly financing separatist groups in Ukraine.

Who is who?

Dozens of accounts of group companies have been blocked at the request of the Federal Tax Service, according to reports. This includes the group's once largest company by asset value, Isma LLC. This firm specialises in property management and was involved in Malofeev's development projects. Back in 2016, Isma's asset structure included receivables of 1.9 billion roubles and financial investments of 2.8 billion roubles. But in January 2019, the company filed for bankruptcy, and in May, the Cyprus-based offshore Flotis Projects LTD demanded 1.97 billion roubles in accounts payable from it. The temporary administrator, Sergei Druzhinin, included Flotis on the creditor register as the only creditor - the case file substantiates this with an account statement from an offshore company.

Behind the offshore is a man whose full name and date of birth are exactly the same as Leonid Gavrilov, co-founder of the knightly Order of St John the Baptist of Jerusalem, better known as an ocean scientist, The Bell found out. Gavrilov's biography states that he was "the business angel of Tsargrad-TV from 2013-2017", and now the exploration firm Avangard, which was owned by Malofeev until the summer of 2019, is registered in his name. It is likely that Isma's assets, if any, will be sent to a Cypriot offshore as the sole creditor, and then the company will be removed from the register of legal entities "quietly, calmly and without fuss", suggests Alexander Pogorelov, partner of the law firm AB Thorn. As a result, all its liquid assets in the absence of other creditors will go to Cyprus Flotis. When asked about bankruptcy of the biggest subsidiary of his holding Malofeev himself answers bluntly: if it was something serious he would have known about it. His press service calls it a legal form of liquidation: the company has no debts for wages or to the budget. Gavrilov did not respond to The Bell, adding him to its blacklist.

Apart from Tsargrad Holding, more than a dozen charitable foundations and public organizations are associated with Malofeev. But judging by their reports, generous funding for them ended simultaneously with the imposition of sanctions. The figures show that Tsargrad, the media company, is Malofeyev's main brainchild and accounts for most of his losses.

Emblem of the Tsargrad-TV channel

How much Malofeev has spent on his media business is unknown: Tsargrad Media does not publish accounts, but the losses of the eponymous non-public joint-stock company in 2014-2018 totalled about 1 billion rubles. However, Tsargrad TV channel, founded in 2015, is already comparable in terms of audience size to Media Factory, which is associated with Evgeny Prigozhin. At the start, RBC magazine estimated the audience of all resources associated with Prigozhin at 5.5 million. The audience of Tsargrad-TV (according to Yandex.Radar) exceeds 7 million people, and the number of views of the website is close to 10 million per month (the press service of Tsargrad estimates its audience at 11 million unique visitors to the channel's website and 10 million monthly views of content in social networks).

Through an extensive network of dozens of resources, each promoting the other, the media audience associated with Prigozhin reached 33 million by 2017, 11 million of which came from RIA FAN, the group's main media outlet. Malofeev may have adopted this strategy. His Double Eagle movement, for example, counted the small online edition of Segodnya among its media resources in 2017. Its registration certificate belongs to the company Rin, which administers a dozen other resources (for example, the portals OkoloKremlin, and others), each of which promotes the other. Portals such as Russkaya Narodnaya Liniya, RIA Katyusha, Russia Forever, SM-News (with almost 7 million unique visitors per month) and others also promote each other. Most of them are registered as media outlets, which allows them to be indexed in Yandex.News. Malofeev's press office, however, claims that all these publications are not related to Tsargrad.

How Malofeev finances all his ventures is unclear. He replies evasively that he had made enough money in his time and now he is not interested in business any more. Part of Malofeev's capital is "in investment portfolios managed by professional market participants", according to the press service's response to The Bell's latest enquiry.

The Nexo Affair

Pazardzhik, the media expert on top of a very interesting city

The Echo from Russia State Propaganda

Телекомът, двете матрьошки и „освободителят“ | Акцент, Анализ, Анализи | Marginalia

The first Video is from Bulgarian National Television NTV, from 26/01/2023. The second is from Russian National Channel Russia 1, 29/01/2023, banned in Europe. The similarities are striking, from news construction, to arrangement, to subliminal messages.

It is so bad in the EU that they started eating insects. Everything is disgusting. Like in the Bulgarian version, students and food professor at the end say that they will only eat traditional food.

The report from Bulgaria was followed by an avalanche of supportive social media posts that, as if on command, began to spread.

What is one of the main pillars of Russian propaganda? How bad would the EU be without Russia and most of all without Russian natural resources. What will follow in Europe after the energy cut-off according to Russian propaganda is Cold, Hunger and Misery. And the inadequate European Politicians will force the population not only to stay in the dark and cold, not only to bathe once a week, but also to start eating insects. Meanwhile, this is just big News in Russia and in Bulgaria, where for a week now there has been hysteria after the Nova TV report in which the reporter even ate a grasshopper. The Russian version of the news shows Hollywood celebrities eating insects, saving that the footage is from reality formats. It is interesting that the news has been circulating in the pro-Russian social space since 2017, but not with such success. It's usually part of the Kremlin trolls' conspiracy toolkit, along with vaccines, 5G tech, climate, etc. Няма как - ще ядем буболечки - 168 Часа (

Concerning Sexual Education and Sex Determination in Bulgaria there is parallel propaganda to that in Russia

Anti- system

The protests in France are an extensive topic in the central news in Bulgaria, every night. With reporters from France saturated with police violence against protesters. As well as all the anti-system protests that are a central topic on the news block in Russia.

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