Romania uncovers spy ring involving Bulgaria, Ukraine

Achim & Zikolov

Achim & Zikolov

Last week, Romania’s President, Traian Băsescunt, surprised observers by abruptly and without explanation cancelling a scheduled high-level visit to Ukraine. The reason for the cancellation has now become apparent, with the announcement by the Romanian authorities of a Ukrainian-handled spy ring in Romania’s capital Bucharest. Specifically, on February 28, agents of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) arrested Floricel (or Florichel) Achim and Petar Marinov Zikolov (or Zikulov) for allegedly handing classified information to Ukrainian embassy officials. Achim is a noncommissioned officer in the Romanian military, whereas Zikolov is Bulgaria’s former military attaché to Romania. Romanian prosecutors, who have charged the arrestees with espionage and treason, claim that the two were handled by Ukrainian intelligence agents from 2002 to 2007. According to the indictment, Achim, who worked in “in an archives department” of the Romanian military, copied digital documents “at random, on a large scale” from Romanian military computer stations. He then passed the information on to Zikolov, who gave it to the Ukrainians. The Romanian authorities alleged that the classified information included “maps, military technical information and details on radars”, and that Achim was paid by the Ukrainians around $1,000 for his services. They also disclosed that it was Zikolov who led them to Achim; the former had apparently “been tracked for a couple of years” by SRI agents, in an attempt to discover the Bulgarian’s information sources in the Romanian military establishment. It is worth noting that some intelligence observers believe that the Zikolov-Achim spy ring focused on providing Ukraine with military information on NATO, of which Romania is a member. If this proves to be the case, this latest incident will be the second breach of NATO security at an Eastern European country in recent months. In February, an Estonian court sentenced Herman Simm, a high-level Estonian defense ministry official, to 12.5 years imprisonment for supplying classified NATO material to Russia.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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