Bulgaria names Russians charged with poisoning linked to Skripal case

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian prosecutors on Friday named the three Russians they have charged with the attempted murder of three Bulgarians whose poisoning is being investigated for possible links with the 2018 nerve-agent attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

Prosecutors said they had charged Sergey Viacheslavovich Fedotov, Sergey Viktorovich Pavlov and Georgi Gorshkov in absentia. They said the men, who used false identities when they traveled abroad, were currently living in Moscow.

Fedotov also went by the alias D.V.S. prosecutors said. The initials match the name Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev, a high-ranking officer of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, who operated internationally under the name Sergey Fedotov, according to investigative website Bellingcat.

In October 2018, Russian news website Fontanka named Fedotov as a suspect in the Skripal case.

Moscow never comments on the identity of GRU staff, but has denied involvement in the poisoning of Skripal.

“We have identified the men. The names we revealed are the ones we have worked with so far. We believe the initials we have also published represent their genuine identities,” a spokeswoman for Sofia Prosecutor’s Office told Reuters.

The three Russians were charged with trying to kill arms factory owner Emilian Gebrev and two other Bulgarians in Sofia between April 28 and May 4, 2015 by “intoxication with an unidentified organophosphorus substance,” in a way that was “dangerous to the lives of many”.

Gebrev and the two other victims fell ill but survived.

Prosecutors said they were cooperating with U.S. and British services on the investigation.

Bulgaria, a close satellite of Moscow during Soviet times, declined to join its allies in the European Union and NATO in expelling Russian diplomats over the Skripal case in 2018.

But it has recently adopted a tougher stance. Since October it has kicked out three Russian envoys accused of espionage and refused a visa for an incoming Russian military attache.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Christina Fincher