How Sanctioned Persons Are Visiting Bulgaria “on Medical Grounds” with the Foreign Ministry’s Approval

The hacked emails of Alexander Babakov, deputy chairperson of the State Duma and special energy envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, have shed light on another, seemingly innocuous issue.
In October 2014, Babakov applied for a Bulgarian visa on the grounds that his travels would facilitate meetings with Russian citizens in Sofia. His application was denied on 15 October because he had been sanctioned by the European Union and denied access to the territory of member states.
Three weeks later, Babakov submitted another visa application. He claimed his travels were on medical grounds, submitting an invitation by the Department of Gastroenterology at Tokuda Hospital signed by the director of the hospital. Perhaps high-ranking Russian politicians regularly apply for Bulgarian visas and neither the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Border Police doubted the veracity of the submitted documents because this time everything was approved. On 14 November, the Bulgarian embassy in Moscow confirmed to Babakov that he could travel from 17 until 19 November 2014.
It remains unknown why it was so important for Babakov to visit Sofia. However, the leaked documents provide plenty of examples of what happened during his visits: meetings with politicians in the highest echelons of power. For example, this is how Babakov’s agenda looked like on a day in 2013:
Arrival in Sofia on 7 April 2014.
  • 23:00 Meeting with Yavor Kuyumdziev, “right hand” to the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and former and future minister of energy.
  • 23:30 Meeting with Aleksander Kanazirski, Boiko Boikov and Peter Felegi (all three have regular correspondence with Babakov)
  • 8 April 2013
  • 8:30 Breakfast with Bojan Stoyanov, Deputy Minister of Energy [Stoyanov has spoken to The New York Times about what he perceived as an attempt by Babakov to bribe him in exchange for support for South Stream, as the now operational TurkStream gas pipeline was called back in 2013]
  • 12:00 Meeting with Sergey Stanishev, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party
  • 14:00 One more meeting (TBC)
  • 15:00 Departure from Sofia
ACF hopes that the leaked correspondence will initiate checks into all such travels on humanitarian grounds. Authorities should check whether persons who had been issued visas underwent the claimed medical procedures or whether such claims are used as fronts for meetings at the highest levels in which public institutions act as support staff.

Абонирайте се за бюлетина на АКФ, за да научавате за най-новите ни разследвания и анализи:

С натискане на бутона потвърждавате, че сте запознати с Политиката ни за поверителност