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HomeBalkansGreek Citizen Ran Gang Arming Russians in Ukraine, Bulgaria Says

Greek Citizen Ran Gang Arming Russians in Ukraine, Bulgaria Says

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A Greek citizen from Georgia has been named as leader of a gang in Bulgaria that illlegally supplied Russian forces in Ukraine with weapons systems.

Bulgarian police on October 10 and on October 11 arrested a total of 12 people for illegally exporting dual-use goods to special Russian units in Ukraine – including “Wagner” forces and Chechen fighters. Among the arrested were Bulgarians, Russians, a Belarusian, a Greek, and an Albanian citizen.

“The owner of the company is a Greek citizen, born in Georgia, the accountant is from Kazakhstan, a Russian with four or five passports is the manager, and a second Russian organised the logistics. The third Russian has a permanent residence permit in Hungary. There is a Belarusian and an Albanian in the group,” the head of the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security, SANS, Plamen Tonchev, said.

Five of the 12 arrested were officially charged; Romanos Vetridis, a Russian citizen who was based in Moscow and Kavala before Plovdiv; couriers enabling the scheme Vasiliy Ulyanov and Evgeniy Ulyanov; Belarus-born Dmitriy Dimitrius; and Albanian Yani Yeshili.

The firm in Plovdiv was established in 2019 and is named Aflon. It was headed by Vetridis and Greek businessman Takis Trikidis, who so far has not been sought by Bulgarian authorities.

On its website, Aflon, which is still active, describes its business as dealing with the international trade in coal, wheat and other goods. The phone number in the contacts is Greek.

BIRN was unable to contact a company representative as the mobile phone was shut down.

Trikidis was accused in 2013 of being a member of what the Greek media called the “Kalashnikov gang”. The Kalashnikov-using gang in 2011-2012 committed various crimes in northern Greece, such as bank robberies, ATM explosions, attacks on police officers, arms and drug trafficking, and blackmail. Trikidis was sentenced to nine years in prison but appealed and was set free.

According to information BIRN has obtained, the Greek intelligence service, EYP, was monitoring the Greek for reasons of national security. The EYP also informed Bulgarian intelligence services in investigating the case.

In response to the war in Ukraine, the EU has toughened and extended export controls on dual-use goods to limit hostile countries’ access to crucial advanced technology, such as drones, law enforcement items, special materials and industrial machinery, chemicals etc.

Deputy Bulgarian Prosecutor-General Mariya Pavlova said the equipment exported included various types of dual-use goods, optical sights and aviation radio equipment.

The EU media outlet Euractiv has reported that the goods were packed in Plovdiv and then sent to Sofia, from where they were exported to Turkey and Russia. The group was active in the UK, Switzerland, Serbia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

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