Russia trying to divide Europe amid dangerous, unpredictable confrontation, Bulgarian president claims

‘The game in Europe today is not to have a full-scale war and to shoot against your enemy, but the game of Mr Putin is to make other countries dependent’

Peter Walker
Friday 04 November 2016 09:25
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Rosen Plevneliev, at the United Nations General Assembly, said Britain and Bulgaria should remain close friends despite Brexit
Rosen Plevneliev, at the United Nations General Assembly, said Britain and Bulgaria should remain close friends despite Brexit

The Bulgarian president has warned Russia is trying to divide Europe amid a “dangerous and unpredictable” international confrontation.

Rosen Plevneliev, who will step down in January after presidential elections on Sunday, also believes Russia was behind a cyber-attack that caused mayhem during elections last year.

The 52-year-old pulled no punches during an in-depth interview with the BBC.

“The game in Europe today is not to have a full-scale war and to shoot against your enemy, but the game of Mr Putin is to make other countries dependent,” said Mr Plevneliev.

Putin has denied any cyber attack connected to Bulgarian or US elections Getty

“What today Russia is trying to achieve is to weaken Europe, to divide Europe, and to make us dependent.”

The centre-right politician also said a western European alliance needed to take a “stronger” line with the Kremlin.

He believes senior Kremlin officials encouraged the “Fancy Bears” or APT 28 hackers, who have allegedly targeted the US elections, the Nato headquarters and the German Bundestag, to disrupt their local elections and a referendum last year.

“I consider it an attack on the Bulgarian democracy,” he said, referring to the blocking of several websites.

“That was the most heaviest and intense cyber attack that has been conducted in south-east Europe.”

Mr Plevneliev, who was investigated by tax authorities in 2014, also said it was harder to stand up to Russia without the UK in the European Union.

“If Brexit is going to be a divorce, we should stay the best possible and the closest friends,” he added, following the High Court’s decision to block Theresa May’s attempt to trigger Brexit without a vote in parliament.

Philip Hammond has vowed to “strike back” if the UK is hit by a cyber attack while Vladimir Putin has rejected “hysterical” claims that Russia has attempted to influence the US election.

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