07 September 2008

New documents on the death of Georgi Markov

The murder of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in London in September 1978 is one of those cases which seems to have lingered in the collective memory. Other cases are quickly forgotten but this Markov’s death seems to remain – perhaps it was the nature of his murder – a ricin pellet shot into Markov from a modified umbrella. He was murdered by Bulgarian intelligence with KGB assistance.

According to the Sofia Echo new documents have confirmed that the murder of Georgi Markov (code name “Wanderer”) was indeed a topic of discussion between the KGB and the Bulgarian intelligence services. The subject of these discussions was the planning of how to disarm the playwright.

The documents confirm that agent Francesco Gulin (Agent Piccadilly) was specially trained in 1978, sent on a mission and subsequently invited to holiday in Bulgaria, where he was presented with medals by the country’s then-secret police State Security. A secret agreement between the KGB and the Bulgarian communist-era intelligence services to provide Bulgaria with access to fast-acting poisons and devices for their delivery has also been discovered.

The most important documents will be published in Bulgarian-language Dnevnik daily in a series of articles starting on September 8. Dnevnik’s investigative journalist Hristo Hristov, was granted access to the dossier of agent Piccadilly after a three-year legal battle. Hristov had been initially refused access to key archives containing information about the murder of Georgi Markov by the director of NIS, General Kircho Kirov. The court battle ended in the Supreme Administrative Court, which issued an unprecedented ruling in favour of Hristov.

Documents from the Piccadilly dossier were requested by the British and Danish authorities in 1993 in order to arrest Gulino, but Bulgaria refused to provide them and the man disappeared from Copenhagen, where he had been based by Bulgaria’s intelligence services since 1975. In May, the Metropolitan Police again requested the Piccadilly files as providing the most important evidence in Markov’s case; at present, it is not clear whether the Bulgarian authorities have agreed to provide them.

In addition to the Piccadilly dossier, Hristov came across an agreement between the KGB and State Security for access to fast-acting poisons and mechanical devices for their silent delivery. The agreement was signed between the Bulgarian and Soviet intelligence services in 1972 by the their then-directors, Bulgarian Dimitar Kyosev and Russian Fyodor Mortin. The document required the Soviet intelligence services to provide experience and facilities for the selection and training of agents who would perform the so-called serious operations (sabotage, kidnapping, murder). After the fall of communism, the former director of “K” department of the Soviet intelligence services, General Oleg Kalugin, publicly admitted that Zhivkov had made a request for KGB technical assistance in the liquidation of Markov, but the successors to the KGB in Russia today have denied these allegations.

The archives of the Bulgarian intelligence services also reveal documentary evidence that the operation led by Bulgarian intelligence services against Markov, ie, Wanderer, was a topic of discussion in the KGB. During the investigation, it became clear that the intelligence services had planned a detailed study of the Wanderer situation for the purposes of performing a “serious operation” (SO) and the “disarming of the target”. Other documents discovered by Hristov in the Markov investigation used the term “neutralised” as opposed to “disarmed”.

The new disclosures comes 30 years after Markov’s murder and only days before the Bulgarian investigation into the case will be closed because of the expiry of the 30-year statute of limitations for criminal investigations. In recent years, the investigator into the case, Andrei Tsvetanov has been promoting the theory that Markov’s death was a result of medical error by the doctors treating Markov in 1978. At the same time, Tsvetanov ignored all the evidence gathered in the case by the previous investigative team (including the Piccadilly files) that prove that the murder had been prepared and carried out by the First Chief Directorate with KGB assistance. The new disclosures have raised the question of whether the Bulgarian authorities’ investigation into the Markov murder has been sufficiently objective and why the new archive evidence has not been included in it.


beakerkin said...

Actually I was surprised to find the American TV show Quincy was shown in the UK. There was actually an episode
lifted from this incident.

It is good that the folks across the pond get some shows other than Sex and the City.

jams o donnell said...

Oh yes. Quincy was shown here. I haven't thought about that show in ages though