In November 2011, GRU unit 29155 blew up an ammunition depot in Lovnidol, Bulgaria, containing artillery shells destined for Georgia. It was the first known terrorist attack carried out by a team of assassins and saboteurs who would later poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England, a Bulgarian arms dealer in Sofia and blow up numerous other depots and buildings in NATO territories.
This is reported by the investigative group “Bellingcat” in a publication in which it reveals new details and specific names surrounding the explosions in the depots near the village of Lovnidol in Sevlievo in mid-November almost exactly 12 years ago. As well as the assassination attempt against arms dealer Emilian Gebrev and sabotage in other European countries, which “killed or injured dozens of civilians and led to the expulsion of Russian diplomats.”
The Russian publication “The Insider” obtained travel records and leaked correspondence from members of Unit 29155, which points to their culpability for the first attack in Bulgaria and partly answers the question of why so many of these operatives hold high political positions in Vladimir Putin’s regime, the authors add.
A key figure behind each of these “black ops” is General Andrey Averyanov (now 56), commander of Unit 29155, who inherited a large part of the empire that until recently belonged to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former commander of the Wagner mercenaries, whose private plane was blown up in August after his own failed uprising in Russia.
He has the personal trust and patronage of Russian President Vladimir Putin, add from Bellingcat and The Insider.
Emails from an aide to Averyanov show that shortly after a visit to Moldova in March 2011, the general returned to Moscow and went to Krasnodar with four subordinates. There began the plot to blow up the Bulgarian batch of ammunition and he organized a competition between three of his men to invent the devices for this attack.
Three remote detonator-triggered versions appeared, complete with full specs and photos of what the basic infrastructure looks like for all the prototypes: DIY electronics, a circuit board from a modified car alarm. All three look hastily put together in the photos, with wires sticking out in various directions and copious use of scotch tape.
“According to its design features, this product has a mechanical clock mechanism with a long range of activation and a fuse that ensures safety when working with the device at all stages,” Major Vladimir Moiseev wrote to Averyanov in a document titled “Appendix #1.”
Moiseev adds that the range of the detonator is from 300 to 700 meters and indicates the detonation time after its activation – between 5 and 55 minutes. “The product is ready for use,” he wrote to Averyanov.
The technical parameters in the documentation describe a device weighing 3 kg, dimensions 40/11/7.5 cm and powered by 1.5, 9 and 12 volt batteries. Its operation is simple – after carrying it with the fuse on, it is placed in the right place, set to a certain time and after the timer has counted down, the electrical supply of the remote detonator is activated, waiting to receive an explosion signal.
Half a year later, in October 2011, thousands of Soviet-era artillery shells were being prepared for shipment to Bulgaria from a Czech ammunition depot to the small village of Vrbetice in the Czech Republic (where the sabotage took place on October 16, 2014). The facility is owned by a subsidiary of the Czech Ministry of Defense but has a long-term lease agreement with the Czech arms trading company IMEX. Among its clients is Gebrev‘s Bulgarian EMCO.
@The Times – Photo after the blast in Vrbetice
At that time, Georgia was actively looking for 152 mm shells and EMCO, as one of the major European ammunition resellers in Europe according to Bellingcat, contacted IMEX to prepare for shipment to Bulgaria thousands of this type of artillery shells between October 4 and November 4, 2011. Gebrev tells The Insider that he has not committed to selling the munitions to Georgia, but suggests that Russia’s Main Directorate (military intelligence, better known as the GRU) may have suspected they would end up in that country.
The following is a detailed description of which employees of unit 29155, when, where and for how long they traveled and stayed in preparation for the sabotage in Bulgaria on November 11, 2011. The explosive devices were placed on trucks with shells that traveled nearly 1,200 km to Lovnidol and along the way there was a risk of them being triggered, believes the investigation team.
“Bulgaria probably has a national security interest in reopening the investigation of this case, but it is not the only country that should do so,” the publication also said.
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