Author: Iliyan Kuzmanov
Around Christmas all media in Bulgaria were flooded for several days with the story of a Bulgarian journalist wanted by the Kremlin. The political parties and the interim government joined in the hysteria. They started talking about freedom of speech and seeking protection from the EU. Strange as it may seem in a country as strange as Bulgaria, which is one of the last in the world in terms of media freedom and complete silence about abuses against journalists. Unless of course it is a PR demonstration. But Grozev's case is much more special than just another demonstration in front of Western embassies in Sofia, aimed at showing some signs of a living democracy and active citizens. Hristo Grozev, works for a famous blogger who created the platform Belinkat. A platform that even after a basic Google search is understood to be a working tool of the Western services in the war we are in. One of Google's first results is FP from December 2022, a source that says Bellingcat Can Say What U.S. Intelligence Can't as is Open Source Intelligence designe to fight Kremlin. But in Bulgaria the media hysteria started like this:
26/12/2022 "The Russian Interior Ministry announced that it was searching for investigative journalist Hristo Grozev, Russian and Ukrainian media reported on Monday. Grozev, who is a Bulgarian citizen, works for the independent investigative journalism network Bellingcat. Russian authorities did not specify the nature of the offences for which he is wanted, saying only that they are contained in the criminal code. Some Russian media outlets, citing their own sources, say Grozev has been sued for publishing false information about the Russian military..." That information was in all the medias. Talk shows, political shows, public, opinions, Senat, President...
27th and 28th The hysteria got to the point that politicians started talking about protecting Grozev. About what the EU will do. Recalling the first days with the Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria, who will not and after a few weeks were demonized in the whole society. And with Grozev, the demonization came much sooner:
The attack was launched by the most leftist journalist in Bulgaria, Peter Volgin. On 28th "To call Hristo Grozev an investigative journalist is a manifestation of severe stupidity or incurable brain damage. He can any. A Western special services man, an order boy, a provocateur or a plain liar. However, certainly not a journalist, let alone an investigative one. So if you have any self-respect, colleagues, don't produce this guy as a journalist. You are insulting yourselves." This is what he wrote on his Facebook profile. A post which was circulated by the largest unofficial media tribune in Bulgaria PIK(analogue of bellincat), through which things can be said that the authorities cannot say. This was followed by their response to the Grozev case:
29/12/2022 PIK was referring in a big article to an FSB. Russian report that said a Ukrainian Defense Ministry operation to hijack Russian warplanes, controlled by the secret services of NATO countries, had been foiled in Russia. The information of the Russian FSB also states that the Russian counterintelligence in the course of operational actions against Ukrainian intelligence received data thanks to which the Russian armed forces destroyed a number of Ukrainian military sites.
Nikolay Barekov- Bulgarian journalist, politician managed to fight his way to third political power in Bulgaria. "A country that accepted Kiril Petkov and Assen Vassilev as prime minister and minister will also accept Hristo Grozev as a journalist."
Konstantin Konstantinov, leader of the pro-Kremlin Vazrazhdane Party. Known for his anti-Western rhetoric: "It is unknown why Hristo Grozev is presented as an "investigative journalist". He is a Bulgarian citizen accused of working for foreign intelligence services.
At the end of the short operation there is a complete discredit in the already fragile trust of the citizens in Bulgaria in the freedom of the media. The associations are, after having gone through the brief sympathy, that all pro-Western media work for the Western secret services. The public anyway has the opinion that the media are commissioned. As well, the opinion that the political class in Bulgaria serves the West is strongly inculcated.
The final move in this fast game in favour of Russia was to Intrigi.bg , on 30/12/2022. His image does not even look like a James Bond anymore, but resembles the typical Bulgarian crooks of the transition. An opportunist, heir of the former communist nomenklatura, which was ready to sell out everything for the sake of a little personal prosperity, leaving the entire population of Bulgaria to languish in misery. An image much loathed by the Bulgarian public, who live on a monthly salary of 300 to 500 euros.
"It is time to stop shedding tears for the "investigative journalist" Hristo Grozev, whom no one in the guild knows. The truth about the Bulgarian, wanted by Russia, turned out to be quite unpleasant - connections with oligarchs, deals for millions and no media biography...
Here are the facts about Hristo Grozev, presented by journalist Todor Belensky, read and think:
I see that in my feed the case about Hristo Grozev is massively discussed. I fully understand that the topic is exciting and that is understandable, but something else struck me. At the end of last month there was a shooting against the Bulgarian club in Ohrid.
I wonder why then the same people who today "defend the Bulgarian" did not utter a word, did not write a line. By the way, this was not the first such case, and the same happened at the official opening of the club. There was also an attack on the Bulgarian club in Bitola.
In the middle of this month, Pope John Paul II's assassin Ali Agja dropped the bomb that the spiritual head himself had asked the Bulgarian Sergei Antonov to be blamed for the attack. The reason is that if the Bulgarian services are to blame, so is the KGB.
Agja writes: The reward for my cooperation, which they offered me and which I claimed, was my release within two years. However, I could only be released if President Sandro Pertini pardoned me, and it was for this reason that Emanuela Orlandi and Mirela Gregori were kidnapped (the girls who disappeared without a trace in 1983 ).
But these people did not write a line about it... About clearing the name of a decent Bulgarian whose life was ruined because of the geopolitical game in question. Not only was he subjected to mental abuse during the many interrogations in prison, but he was also given psychotropic substances.
But...we leave the hypocrites aside and return to the personality of Hristo Grozev. I am not going to express any personal opinions and positions, because that is not a journalist's job. I will only recall interesting facts from his biography.
Grozev claims that he grew up in a family of dissidents, but his education was in a school where the offspring of the communist nomenklatura were educated. He began his journalism career at the age of 17 - that is, in 1986 in Bulgaria. At that time, casuals were not allowed to work in the media.
In the early 1990s, he entered the newly opened American University in Bulgaria. This educational institution was founded in 1991 with the assistance of the US Embassy in Bulgaria and the Open Society Foundation. There Hristo Grozev founded Radio AURA with a grant from the American NGO International Media Fund.
Subsequently Grozev went to Russia, and in the mid-1990s he got a job at Metromedia of former US intelligence officer John Kluge. In a 1996 photo, Grozev is pictured with Metromedia Vice President John Catlett, who later became the operations director of Radio Liberty's Czech branch. A company press release shows him in the light of a specialist in promoting American values around the world, including Russia. In 2000, Grozev became president of Metromedia International.
Here comes the even more interesting part. At the beginning of 2010, as co-owner of the Austrian company BG PRIVATINVEST GmbH, Grozev, together with Sofarma owner Ognian Donev and his partner Lyubomir Pavlov, bought the Bulgaria newspaper group, which includes 24 Hours and Trud, for 40 million euros in December 2010.
What is interesting here? "BG Privatinvest GmbH was established at the end of 2010 just before the deal. The company's authorized capital amounted to the Austrian legal minimum of 35,000 euros, of which the shareholders - Grozev, his patron Karl Habsburg and German citizen Daniel Rutz - contributed only half at the time of registration, taking advantage of the deferred contribution option. Bivol colleagues have written extensively on the subject and you can see what this is all about in detail.
What is even more interesting is that on 17 November 2011. The Sofia Court of Appeal removed Hristo Grozev from all powers related to the management of the former newspaper group Bulgaria, as he was accused of obstructing the activities of the media. Moreover, on 27 July 2012. Sofia City Court annulled the agreement between BG Privatinvest GmbH, Donev and Pavlov, thus depriving Grozev of assets.
According to the ruling, the enterprising businessman did not have the authority to conclude a deal to purchase the Bulgaria newspaper group, as at the time of its conclusion, BG Privatinvest Gmbh was not registered and there was no general meeting in which Grozev was authorised. Grozev was de facto acting on behalf of a phantom company.
Also interesting is the relationship with Borislav Dionisiev, who registered many of his companies at 23 James Boucher Avenue. Hristo Grozev's Mediahelp is at the same address. The "coincidences" do not end there. The woman Dionisiev lives with is Michaela Kalaidjieva, sister of former Bulgarian Minister for European Affairs Gergana Passi, who studied with Grozev at the English High School in Plovdiv.
In addition, Gergana Passy is the president of the Bulgarian branch of the pan-European union, while Grozev's permanent business partner, Karl Habsburg, is the head of the Austrian branch of the same organisation, which has long been headed by Habsburg's father.
In 2014. Grozev entered, notably, the Ukrainian market, acquiring a network of radio stations that, at first, were known as Radio EU and later renamed Kraina FM. Grozev's partners in Ukraine were Karl Habsburg and the Bulgarian "arms baron" Peter Manjukov. He is probably a "dissident" too 😉. Another person from the same circle is Emilian Gebrev whose company EMKO is involved in selling weapons to the bearded uncles who declared jihad in Syria.
Finally comes the question. It is clear that Hristo Grozev is not an agent of any Western secret service, for sure not Western. At least from his constant complaints that have surfaced since the summer on social networks and Twiter that he is being threatened by Putin. Even a moderately literate public understands that James Bond would not cry for help on social media. What was the function of all this blitz? Why did the "supposedly" pro-Western media embark on an apparently suicidal campaign for the image of the West that turned into a real fiasco? It means either that complete idiots are being paid millions of American and European taxpayers' money, or that they are simply being "caught out" by Russian forces in Bulgaria.