Alternatives & Analyses: The Corruption Triad Borisov – Dogan – Peevski, Russia’s energy projects in Bulgaria and the upcoming Navalny sanctions

The noose around Russia and Gazprom’s Nord and Turk Stream projects is tightening. In yesterday’s issue, Germany’s influential tabloid Bild calls Nord Stream the Death Stream

because of the accusation against Kremlin that it poisoned Putin’s primary political opponent, Alexei Navalny. Observers noted that for the first time, even Chancellor Merkel did not rule out the possibility of sanctions on the Navalny case, which could block Nord Stream-2. In a desperate attempt to diffuse the tensions, Italian Prime Minister Conte, close to Putin, proposed that Russia sets up a “commission to investigate” Navalny’s poisoning. As Russian experts would say, a classic diversion move  when you want to cover a real problem – set up a commission.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid a notable visit to Cyprus, whose economy is heavily dependent on Russian billions in the country’s banks. He received the highest state award, and the ‘miracle’ happened – Cyprus vetoed EU sanctions against Lukashenko and pledged to block similar sanctions against Russia. It is uncertain that the Cypriot president will succeed in shielding Putin from sanctions agreed between the Western geopolitical majors in the Navalny case. Under the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) statute, the continuous use of novichok types of nerve agents against civilians could constitute a crime against humanity, and cases are brought up in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Once the sanctions train leaves the station, it is just a matter of a short time before both Turk and Nord Stream become deadlocked.

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Clouds over Turk Stream are gathering following revelations of a spy affair in Turkey. A Bulgarian agent has allegedly used his love affair with a Turkish woman to obtain sensitive classified information about Turkey’s gas deals and Turk Stream policies.

The Turkish secret services have arrested four employees of the previously Gazprom-related Bosphorus Gas and the state-owned Botas. This news follows in the footsteps of another ‘breaking story’ – that Gazprom-affiliated proxies are trying to sell natural gas to and from Turkey at spot prices on the border with Bulgaria, making use of Gazexport’s transit contracts for the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline. These “twists and turns” wouldn’t be possible  without the involvement and consent of Bulgartransgaz, while the interconnection agreement between BTG and Botas is in a state of almost permanent delay, which puts other traders at a disadvantage. Most “importantly” – the media headlines will claim that Bulgarians are spying on a NATO member country in favor of Russia and affiliated Bulgarian state gas companies.

Against this background, it comes as no surprise that Dogan’s partners – PM Borisov, Delyan Peevski, and more recently, Danail Papazov, are in intensive and seemingly final negotiations with Russian companies and banks to attract investments and secure gas supply for the conversion of Varna TPP to gas power generators, concurrently developing the port infrastructure. In the context of the state cash of BGN 570 million poured by Borisov, contracting Russian dredgers and companies in facilitating large ships’ access, including LNG containers, the corruption triad – Dogan-Borisov-Peevski ‘s strategic idea becomes clear – a strategic operation  to open a new entry point of Russian influence in Bulgaria, coupling the control of Lukoil over the Bourgas port.

The story of the Russian VTB bank leading a loose consortium on the EUR 520 milion loan to Bulgartransgaz, seeking to complete the TurkStream, becomes self-explanatory. The Bulgarian media remain mute on the terms and the collateral, as the stakes involved could potentially qualify as treason, a lousy remake of 1996 saga, when Gazprom tried to obtain controul over Bulgaria’s transit ssytem and failed. Shortly after that, the Socialist PM was toppled. 

Until the deals on the TPP Varna and the port are struck in Moscow, PM Borissov will enjoy the support of the MRF and Dogan. While President Radev has been given the Russian proxy role, the corruption trio’s endspiel is to attach more strings to the state capture by closely intertwined Russian and Bulgarian corrupt elites.

Always worth recalling the unsual revelation of Russia’s top spy in the Balkans for last decades – Lieutenant General Reshetnikov, which serves as the cornerstone, for explaining the situation – “BSP supporters, he alleged, are mostly Sovietophiles, while GERB voters are classic Russophiles, that is, people who sympathize not with the Soviet Union but with pre-revolutuinary Russia. In this sense, GERB leaders are even more predictable. You can do business with them on clearer terms. “

Ilian Vassilev

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