Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bulgarian Intelligence's ferocious reputation

Lieutenant General Pavel Sudoplatov, Soviet intelligence chief who ran the Trotsky assassination in 1940, revealed in his 1994 memoirs, Special Tasks, about the workings of the Bulgarian intelligence service, KDS, during the Cold War. Photo: wikipedia.

PART 2 – : Bulgarian Intelligence operations in Western Europe during the 1990s...
Bulgarian Intelligence's ferocious reputation.

By Sasha Uzunov

Bulgaria has in two major wars chosen the wrong side but still ended up winning politically. During the Second World War Tsarist Bulgaria joined Adolf Hitler's Axis alliance in 1941, invaded Macedonia and under a brutal occupation exterminated the Jewish population as well as killing many of Macedonia's young Partizan resistance heroes. By 1944, with the Nazis on the way out, a Communist coup led by Georgi Dimitrov, an ethnic Macedonian and one of USSR dictator Josif Stalin's henchmen, made Bulgaria change sides and throw in its lot with the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War (1946-90), Sofia stood shoulder to shoulder with Moscow as it battled the West for ideological supremacy. With the collapse of communism, Bulgaria found itself an ally of the West and eventually a member of the European Union, despite its problems with the ill-treatment of ethnic minorities such as the Macedonians, Turks, and Roma.

A common thread running through all the regime changes in Sofia has been a ferocious but efficient secret police and brutal enforcement of Bulgarian nationalism, albeit for Dimitrov's brief reign.
Lieutenant General Pavel Sudoplatov, of the USSR's NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) and the man who ran the successful assassination of Stalin's rival Trotsky in 1940 in Mexico, wrote in his 1994 memoirs, Special Tasks:

When Dimitrov returned home to Bulgaria in 1944, he allowed the czarina (tsarina) and her son, the heir apparent, to leave the country with their personal wealth and property. Sensing the danger that might come from monarchist emigres, Dimitrov decided to eliminate the entire political opposition....and...didn't face the existence of an emigre organisation in the West.”

Sudoplatov in 1970 met with Bulgaria's Defence Minister General Ivan Genarov, who worked for the Soviet NKVD during WWII. Genarov said to Sudoplatov: “we ourselves learned the lesson from you and wiped them out...”

Yugoslavia's own communist intelligence service UDBa, later to be renamed SDB, was also a student of the Soviet secret service.

In 1949 the Macedonian ethnic minority in Bulgaria had the misfortune of being caught in the middle of a quarrel between Yugoslav Communist ruler Marshal Tito and Stalin, as well as Dimitrov dying mysteriously. Overnight the Bulgarian communist regime canceled their ethnic rights.

Under the xenophobic leadership of Todor Zhivkov (1954-89), the brutal policy of forced Bulgarisation took place. Macedonian orthodox Christians and Turkish Muslims were now Bulgarians. Ethnic Turk weightlifter Naim Suleymanoglou became Naum Shalamanov against his will. In 1986, with the help of local Turks, Suleymanoglou defected whilst competing in Melbourne, Australia.

In 1988 the “Pocket Hercules,” as he was known for his short height, won the Olympic Gold Medal for Turkey. Talking to members of Melbourne' Turkish community during the 1988 Olympics, they said emotionally with tears in their eyes that Suleymanoglou was not only lifting heavy weights but carrying the burden of Bulgaria's persecuted Turkish minority.

But Zhivkov's secret police, Komitet za Darzhavna Sigurnost, KDS, also hunted ethnic Bulgarians who did not toe the political line. In 1978 Georgi Markov, a dissident living in Britain was killed by being stabbed with a poison-tipped umbrella supplied by the Soviets.

General Sudoplatov wrote: “ [KGB General] Oleg Kalugin revealed that he passed poision...to the Bulgarian Special Services in Moscow...Kalugin was awarded a medal and a Browning automatic pistol from the Bulgarian government for his services.”

The KDS, like UDBa, had special departments monitoring ethnic groups. KDS's 6th Directorate, 4th Department, handled pro-Turkish and pro-Macedonian nationalism.

A clever technique used to silence opposition abroad was created by the Tsarist Russian police in the late 1890s and later perfected by the Communists when they seized power during the October Revolution in 1917.

Both UDBa and KDS would use the exact same technique, known as the TRUST operations.
In the 1920s, the Soviet Secret service, which began as the Cheka and evolved along the way as OGPU/NKVD/KGB, began to “lure emigre agents into the arms of the OGPU, including the Trust, an imaginary counter-revolutionary union of monarchists and social revolutionaries.” (Donald Rayfield, Stalin and his henchmen, Penguin Books, 2005, page 137).

In other words, Russian dissidents living in Paris were fooled into returning to fight the Soviet regime but were executed on their arrival. In the early 1970s UDBa managed to lure Croat nationalists back to Yugoslavia in a similar manner. Both UDBa and KDS' infiltrated some Macedonian organisations in Western Europe, namely Belgium.

Surprisingly, Ivan “Vancho” Mihailov, the fanatical pro-Bulgarian Macedonian leader and Nazi collaborator was allowed to die in peace in Italy many decades after the end of WWII. Neither UDBa nor KDS was successful in getting rid of him.

As I explained in part 1 of my story, I came across individuals living in Belgium, who said they were Macedonians but who strongly believed in linking up with Bulgaria. The scenario they gave back in 1992 almost echoed that of what happened in 2001, a war between Albanians and Macedonians, with Macedonians running into the arms of Bulgaria for help! One individual, as I revealed in part 1, was able to come and go into Bulgaria, despite the regime's paranoia of emigres.

With the end of the Cold War, Eastern European communists and secret police hitmen transformed themselves into democrats and nationalists. Despite Bulgaria's inclusion into the European Union, it still gives its Macedonian ethnic minority a hard time by denying their right to their own identity and language. It seems old habits die hard but only the tactics change.

When the ethnic Albanian insurgency erupted in Macedonia in 2001, Bulgaria, playing the nice guy despite not recognising a separate Macedonian identity, offered tanks and well as troops. The tanks were accepted but not the troops, as this report in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, spelled out:

BULGARIA offered to send troops to Macedonia yesterday, raising fears that the fighting on the border with Kosovo could spread into a regional conflict.

Officials in Sofia said President Petar Stoyanov told his Macedonian counterpart, Boris Trajkovski, that he was ready to send "Bulgarian armed forces if Macedonia asks its neighbours or international organisations". Later, Mr Boiko Noev, Bulgaria's Defence Minister, sought to play down the president's remarks, saying there was no need to send troops. But the offer revived fears in the West of a pan-Balkan conflict centred on Macedonia.

Macedonia has been largely spared the past decade's convulsions in the region. But it was the object of contention in the two Balkan wars early last century, and there have long been fears that it could be dragged into the strife that has accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria have in the past all made territorial claims on what is now Macedonia. But the latest threat comes from Albanian militants, seeking to create a "Greater Albania", or at least a "Greater Kosovo"” (end of quote)

But this is the Balkans region, a region that is a victim of its past which it cannot let go !


Map of The Republic of Macedonia during the 2001 Albanian Insurgency.
source: wikipedia

Part 1: Bulgarian Intelligence operations in Western Europe during the 1990s....


by Sasha Uzunov

The Republic of Macedonia celebrated its 20th anniversary of independence on 8 September 2011. This year also marked a decade of the short-lived ethnic Albanian insurgency in that tiny Balkan state. Did neighbouring Bulgaria, for its own strategic ends, light the fuse to long standing tensions between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians?

Is Bulgaria's long term strategic goal in creating instability in Macedonia! That is making the new state non-viable and absorbed by a Greater Bulgaria, a century old aspiration of ultra Bulgarian nationalists?

The Balkans region of South-Eastern Europe has throughout history been a political powder keg. Not surprisingly, conspiracy theories have become the past time in many of the Balkan states. You will find crackpots blaming the CIA, Henry Kissinger, ex-KGB, the Vatican, Zionists, Islamic fundamentalists, the Freemasons for whatever misfortune occurs, including the current economic collapse in Greece and natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Macedonia managed to break away from the then crumbling Serb dominated Yugoslav federation in 1991 without bloodshed, unlike Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bulgaria, under its president Zhelyu Zhelev, was one of the first states to recognise Macedonia's independence but not its language or ethnicity. Intellectual circles in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, regard Macedonians as misguided “Western Bulgarians” who need to be coaxed gently back into the fold. Bulgaria tried unsuccessfully with brutal force during two world wars to achieve this objective.

In 2001 an ethnic Albanian insurgency erupted in the western part of Macedonia and, fortunately, it was short lived. But its legacy engendered mistrust on both sides.

Before the conflict, there had been an awkward but peaceful co-existence between the Macedonians, predominately Orthodox Christian and comprising 70 to 75% of the population, and the Albanians, largely Sunni Muslim, and about 20% of the population. But with simmering ethnic tensions just below the surface, ready to bubble over.

Macedonian nationalists were alarmed at the high birth rate of the Albanians and their alleged unwillingness to assimilate and their support for a Greater Albania. Moreover, as Macedonia had never been independent for over a millennium, there was a fear of losing territory.

The Albanians on the other hand complained of being marginalised in public service jobs and education, and their basic rights denied.

Since its independence in 1991, ethnic Albanian parties have been a coalition partner in successive Macedonian governments in order to allay these fears. Under Yugoslav rule, the communists were hard on Macedonian nationalists or those with mild patriotic aspirations as well. Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa) spent years silencing dissent abroad with assassinations or scare tactics.

Into this volatile mix came the 1999 Kosovo War. Macedonia permitted NATO to operate on its territory to launch attacks and push the Serbs out of the region. Consequently, tiny impoverished Macedonia was swamped by thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees fleeing the war.

Two years later, a group calling itself the National Liberation Army launched an uprising in Western Macedonia claiming to be fighting for Albanian human rights. Initially, the West labelled this group as a terrorist or organised crime element but realising that it may have been aligned to the Kosovo Liberation Army, and a de-facto ally of NATO, changed its tune, according to Canadian journalist and award winning war reporter Scott Taylor. In other words, the KLA warriors were accused of going from freedom fighters against the Serbs to territorial expansionists in Western Macedonia.

So if Macedonia had opened its door to NATO and Western media scrutiny in 1999, then how was it that war, purporting to be fought for Albanian human rights, was permitted to erupt in 2001? Were both Albanians and Macedonians manipulated into a conflict?

Up until 1998, a United Nations peacekeeping force (UNPREDEP), including US troops, was deployed on Macedonia's borders to stop aggression at the hands of Slobodan Milosevic in his quest for a Greater Serbia or weapons smuggling by Kosovo Albanian separatist.

UNPREDEP managed the job well. But for some crazy reason, Macedonia's Foreign Minister Vasil Tupurkovski recognised Taiwan and all hell broke loose in the UN Security Council. Security Council permanent member the People's Republic of China in an act of retaliation withdrew support for the UNPREDEP mission. Macedonia's border now became a sieve: with criminal gangs or terrorists able to come and go.

But why did the Macedonian government at the time, headed by Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski of the nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE ignore the threat?

Edward Joseph in his in-depth study: MACEDONIA’S PUBLIC SECRET: HOW CORRUPTION, DRAGS THE COUNTRY DOWN, 14 August 2002, for the think tank, International Crisis Group, wrote:

The see-no-evil posture of the Macedonian police allowed smuggling villages like Tanusevci (which lies on the border, 36 kilometers north of Skopje) to become, in effect, “free territories”. The village not only became the transit point for contraband, it also served as a recruiting and training base for Albanian radicals active in the nearby Presevo Valley of southern Serbia.”

However, Joseph dismisses the conspiracy theory, largely popular in Macedonia, that there was collusion between Georgievski's VMRO-DPMNE and its coalition partner Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) to start a war in order to divide territory.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, the notion that there was a “deal” to divide Macedonia persists. Even many of those who concede that the conflict was not the result of a grand conspiracy believe that the ruling parties colluded at least to manipulate public opinion during its course.”

However, in the footnotes he cites:

The notion of a VMRO – Albanian deal to divide the country dates back to the interwar period, and as well, the Fascist Bulgarian and Albanian period during World War II.

The 2001 Albanian insurgency was brought to a quick end and a deal known as the Ohrid Framework Agreement was signed by the Georgievski's government, DPA and the Albanian insurgents under Ali Ahmeti's command.

In what appears to be a case of sour grapes at Macedonia not being partitioned and with racist overtones, Georgievski called for a Berlin-style wall. But it was criticised by a leading expert:

...a wall [to] be built if necessary to divide ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian populations accepts the possibility of considerable violence in realising the proposed territorial division. Even were such a division to occur without bloodshed, however, it would generate a new set of problems likely to further threaten the already tenuous stability of the region. On the one hand, cession to Albania of an artificially created ethnic Albanian enclave could upset the country’s (sub-)ethnic balance between Ghegs and Tosks.

"On the other hand, the loss of territory and population from the Republic of Macedonia would call into question the country’s existence not only for reasons of size, but also because such truncation could lead to clashes between serbophile and bulgarophile elements of the ethnic Macedonian population intent on union with neighbouring states already short on administrative capacity. Thus, while ethnic partition might promise to ethnic Albanian and ethnic Macedonian populations an escape from deadlock over the Framework Agreement, such an arrangement would pose a greater danger than does wrangling on implementation.”

(THE SPECTRE OF TERRITORIAL DIVISION AND THE OHRID AGREEMENT, by Eben Friedman, European Centre for Minority Issues, Brief # 9 July 2003).

Before we go any further or even dip back into history, we have to mention that Georgievski left VMRO- DPMNE, some say he was pushed out, to set up his own political party. He has taken to the Macedonian media with all sorts of controversial statements about Macedonian identity, allegations that his previous party was pro-Serbo-Yugoslav, the danger of Greater Albania, and calls for closer links to Bulgaria.

He told Milenko Nedelovski of Macedonian TV station Kanal 5 in 2009:

In the Republic of Macedonia from 1945 and again from 1990, it's no secret that to be considered a Macedonian patriot you had to spit on Bulgaria...”

On the allegation of Georgievski holding dual Macedonian and Bulgarian citizenship, the former Prime Minister mentioned his cabinet colleague at the time, the bombastic Ljube Boskovski having Croatian citizenship.

Nedelovski's response: “the Croats don't deny the existence of our [Macedonian] name, language, nation, church [as the Bulgarians do].”

Georgievski's “Berlin War” solution is nothing new. However, the startling thing about it was back in the early 1990s, shadowy emigre groups in Western Europe with possible connections to Bulgarian intelligence were calling for the same solution !

In 1992 I had the good fortune of meeting Mr Goce Vidanovski, a long time Macedonian community leader and activist in Belgium. Vidanovski had spent decades trying to keep out Yugoslav and Bulgarian interference within his community. In doing so he lived with the possibility of being on the end of an assassin's bullet.

Belgium, because of its small size and lax policing, was a hub for UDBa operations in the 1970s and 80s against emigre political opponents living in Western Europe. Zeljko Raznjatovic-Arkan, the Serb warlord began his career as a petty criminal and bank robber in Belgium before graduating to UDBa hit man.

Likewise, Macedonian groups and individuals with pro-Bulgarian affiliations were active in Belgium as well. Vidanovski introduced me to them. One such individual strongly believed that Macedonia's salvation lay with the country being partitioned along the river Vardar, with the west going to Albania and the east linking up with “Mother Bulgaria.”

His reasoning was that Bulgaria needed a buffer zone against the Albanians. He also made the outrageous claim that the Bulgarian authorities had established camps for refugees fleeing from Macedonia into Bulgaria should war erupt. This individual was also free to travel to Bulgaria before and after the communist period in that country. A remarkable feat considering Bulgaria was one of the Soviet Union's staunchest allies during the Cold War (1946-90) and kept a close watch on who entered or left the country.

As I began to examine closely Bulgarian intelligence operations in Western Europe, I received a number of threatening phone calls during my stay in Belgium...

Coming soon: PART 2 – Bulgarian Intelligence's ferocious reputation.