Three people ‘suspected of spying for Russia’ arrested in major UK police sting

Suspected spies: (from left) Katrin Ivanova, Orlin Roussev and Biser Dzhambazov (Sourced)
Suspected spies: (from left) Katrin Ivanova, Orlin Roussev and Biser Dzhambazov (Sourced)

Three people suspected of spying for Russia have been arrested in Britain as part of an Official Secrets Act investigation.

Two men and a woman have been charged with possessing false identity documents, said to include passports for multiple countries, “with improper intention” and remain in custody ahead of trial.

The Metropolitan Police said it arrested five people by counter-terrorism police as part of the espionage probe on 8 February, across different parts of London and Norfolk.

Orlin Roussev, 45, of Great Yarmouth, Biser Dzhambazov, 42, of Harrow, and Katrin Ivanova, 31, also of Harrow, were later charged with the document offences.

All three defendants are Bulgarian nationals who are suspected of spying for Russia, the BBC reported.

Dzhambazov and Ivanova were a couple, neighbours said (Facebook)
Dzhambazov and Ivanova were a couple, neighbours said (Facebook)

The documents allegedly include passports, identity cards and other documents for countries including the UK, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Greece and the Czech Republic.

They appeared at London’s Old Bailey on 31 July and were remanded in custody ahead of a trial at a future date, which has not yet been set.

Another man and woman arrested in London as part of the Official Secrets Act were released on bail in February and are due to return next month, as enquiries continue.

The three individuals who have been charged are reported to have lived in the UK for years, having held various jobs.

Mr Roussev, whose most recent address is a guesthouse in Great Yarmouth, claims on LinkedIn that he previously served as an adviser to the Bulgarian energy minister.

Orlin Roussev, of Great Yarmouth, is third defendant in case (Sourced)
Orlin Roussev, of Great Yarmouth, is third defendant in case (Sourced)

Upon then moving to the UK, reportedly in 2009, he spent three years as chief technical officer at a financial services firm, and lists himself as having owned a firm involved in AI and advanced communications systems for the past 10 years.

Neighbours in Harrow described Ms Ivanova and Mr Dzhambazov as a couple, with the latter said to be a driver for hospitals, according to the BBC.

Ms Ivanova works as a laboratory assistant for a private healthcare firm, according to LinkedIn, which states she has been in the UK since at least 2013.

The pair ran a community organisation providing services to Bulgarian people, including familiarising them with the "culture and norms of British society”, and according to Bulgarian state documents worked for electoral commissions in London helping Bulgarian expats to vote, the BBC reported.

The security services have said an increasing portion of their work is taken up by “hostile state threats”, and Russia has been a particular focus since the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in 2018.

Dzhambazov and Ivanova lived in Harrow, pictured (Google)
Dzhambazov and Ivanova lived in Harrow, pictured (Google)

The former double agent and his daughter survived the initial attack in Salisbury, but a perfume bottle filled with novichok later caused the death of local woman Dawn Sturgess.

Giving his most recent annual threat update, the head of MI5 said the agency was “working intensively to make the UK the hardest possible operating environment for Russian covert action”.

Director general Ken McCallum added: “We’ll need to keep at it: alongside assassination attempts, the Russian covert toolkit includes cyber attacks, disinformation, espionage, democratic interference, and the use of Putin-aligned oligarchs and others as tools for influence.”

Launching the government’s new counter-terrorism strategy last month, home secretary Suella Braverman called Russia Britain’s “most pressing national security priority”.