Three Bulgarian nationals suspected of being part of a Russian spy ring have been arrested and charged in the UK following a major national security probe.
The defendants were among a total of five suspects first held in February by Met Police officers on suspicion of an offence under the Official Secrets Act.
The three charged are alleged to have been working for the Russian security services and have been remanded in custody ever since. They are Orlin Roussev, 45, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, Bizer Dzhambazov, 41, of Harrow, north-west London and Katrin Ivanova, 31, of the same address.
They were charged with possessing multiple European identity documents with “improper intention”, while allegedly knowing they were fake. Among the documents were 19 passports, driving licences, identity cards and residence permits for countries including the UK, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, and the Czech Republic.
The suspects are also accused of posing as journalists from American television companies after forged press cards and clothing for the Discovery and National Geographic channels, which were used to carry out surveillance operations, were found by Scotland Yard detectives among their belongings. The alleged operations included targets in London, Germany and Montenegro.
The remaining two of the five arrested, a 31-year-old man and 29-year-old woman, have been released on police bail and are due to return in September.
Roussev, who spent four years in Australia studying at the Queensland University of Technology before arriving in the UK in 2009, describes himself on his LinkedIn profile as co-founder of Bulgarian streaming platform MyTotal.tv. His profile also lists him as the owner of a business involved in signals intelligence. The term is generally understood as information gathering through the interception, collection and analysis of electronic signals and communications.
The BBC described Dzhambazov as a hospital driver while Ivanova lists her job on social media as an assistant at a medical laboratory offering pathology services. Both have lived in the UK for a number of years.
The three defendants are due to go on trial at the Old Bailey in London in January. They are yet to enter pleas to the charges.
Britain has been sharpening its focus on external security threats and last month it passed a new national security law, attempting to deter espionage and foreign interference by overhauling outdated espionage laws and aiming to provide law enforcement and intelligence agencies with new and updated tools to deter, detect and disrupt modern-day state threats
The government labelled Russia “the most acute threat” to its security when the law was passed. Last year, MI5 director general Ken McCallum, Britain’s domestic spy chief, said more than 400 suspected Russian spies had been expelled from Europe.
Since 2018, police have charged three Russians, who they say are military intelligence officers, with the 2018 attempt to murder former double agent Sergei Skripal with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. Two were charged in 2018 and the third in 2021.