What to Know About 5 People Suspected of Spying for Russia in the U.K.
Five citizens of Bulgaria who are accused of spying for Russia are scheduled to appear in court in London on Tuesday after being formally charged with espionage offenses.
The preliminary hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court follows an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism command, which also focuses on cases concerning official secrets.
Who has been charged?
The five accused are Orlin Roussev, 45, who had been living in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, England; Bizer Dzhambazov, 41, and Katrin Ivanova, 31, who had both been living in Harrow in northwest London; Ivan Stoyanov, 31, from Greenford, west London; and Vanya Gaberova, 29, from Churchway, northwest London.
With a criminal prosecution underway, restrictions on what the news media can report are strict in Britain, and there is an official warning that there should be “no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
What are the charges against them?
The five defendants are charged with conspiracy to conduct espionage — or more specifically, “conspiring to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy for a purpose prejudicial to the safety and interest of the state.” The spying is alleged to have taken place over more than two years, from Aug. 30, 2020, to Feb. 8, 2023.
Mr. Roussev, Mr. Dzhambazov and Ms. Ivanova were previously charged on Feb. 11 with possession of false identity documents.
What happens now?
With serious charges like these, an appearance in a magistrates’ court is a first step, and the case will now be referred to a higher court.
The maximum sentence for someone found guilty of the espionage offenses would be 14 years in prison, according to the Crown Prosecution Service, the public prosecutor for England and Wales, which decided to go ahead with the charges.