Three Bulgarian nationals suspected of spying for Russia while living in the UK have been arrested and charged, police have said.
The defendants were among five people detained in February following a long-running counter-terrorism investigation. Three of those were then charged with possession of false identity documents with improper intention, the Metropolitan police – which is responsible for espionage cases – said in a statement.
The BBC reported that they are accused of working for Russia’s security services, as part of what appears to be an undercover cell. They reportedly held passports and identity cards from Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and the Czech Republic.
The defendants – arrested under the Official Secrets Act by counter-terrorism police – knew the documents were forged and had them with “improper intention”, it is alleged.
The trio had lived in the UK for years, working in a variety of jobs, and living in a series of suburban properties, the BBC reported.
It said Roussev had a history of business dealings in Russia. He moved to the UK in 2009 and spent three years working in a technical role in financial services.
His LinkedIn profile did not feature a photograph. Roussev says he is the owner of a company, NewGenTech Ltd, which deals with “artificial intelligence, advanced indexing systems and algorithms,
advanced communication systems … RF and high frequency technologies and signals processing”.
He describes himself as a former adviser to Bulgaria’s energy ministry and has recently been been living at a seaside guesthouse in Great Yarmouth.
Dzhambazov is described as a driver for hospitals. His Facebook page lists no friends and features innocuous videos. Ivanova describes herself on her LinkedIn profile as a laboratory assistant for a private health business.
The pair, who moved to the UK around a decade ago, ran a community organisation providing services to Bulgarian people, including familiarising them with the “culture and norms of British society”, the BBC said.
According to Bulgarian state documents online, they also worked for electoral commissions in London which facilitate voting in Bulgarian elections by citizens living abroad.
The three defendants are due to go on trial at the Old Bailey in London in January. They have yet to enter pleas to the charges.
In recent years Russian spies have been involved in several high-profile plots including the murder in 2006 of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko and the attempted murder in 2018 of the Russian defector Sergei Skripal.
All three of Russia’s spy agencies have been involved in UK operations. They include the Federal Security Service or FSB, which Vladimir Putin ran before he became prime minister and president; Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU or GU, and the SVR foreign intelligence service.
The British government has previously expelled several Russian diplomats working at the embassy in Kensington under diplomatic cover.