Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has summoned Russia’s ambassador to protest against Moscow’s decision to put Bulgarian investigative journalist Christo Grozev on a list of wanted people.
The ministry’s move on Thursday came after Grozev, chief investigator on Russia for the Bellingcat news outlet, was designated as “wanted under an article of the Criminal Code”, according to information published on Russia’s interior ministry website this week.
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Grozev’s reporting has focused this year on alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine. He has previously carried out investigations into the poisonings of opposition politician Alexey Navalny and former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. Russia has denied responsibility for those poisonings.
Interim Prime Minister Galab Donev said Bulgaria would demand information from Russia on why Grozev had been put on the list. Donev said Bulgaria had not been informed through official channels by Moscow about any charges brought against the 53-year-old.
“This act is unacceptable. It represents an attack on freedom of speech and an attempt to intimidate a Bulgarian citizen,” Donev told reporters on Thursday.
‘They are scared of our work’
Grozev, who keeps his whereabouts hidden for security reasons, said adding him to the wanted list might be a move to prevent other journalists from looking into what is happening in Russia.
“For years they’ve made it clear they are scared of our work and would stop at nothing to make it go away,” he said in a tweet.
Grozev “focuses on security threats, extra-territorial clandestine operations, and the weaponisation of information”, according to Bellingcat’s website.
Speaking to Bulgaria’s NOVA TV television channel from an unknown location on Wednesday, Grozev said he was afraid for his life and people on their own initiative might want to do “a favour to the Kremlin” and attempt to kill or abduct him.
He added that he had been offered help by the Netherlands, Sweden, Estonia and Austria, where he has been living in recent years.
The office of Bulgaria’s president said Sofia was also taking steps to ensure his security.
Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, said that while Grozev was no longer welcome in Russia, it “does not mean that someone will search for him around the world”.