I have never heard of Peevski’s connections with Russia
By Evelina Gecheva
Published on 16 October 2017
Leonid Reshetnikov is a lieutenant-general of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, where he worked until 2009. Between 2009 and 2017 he headed the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS). Since 2017 he has been chairman of the supervisory board of Tsargrad TV and head of the Double-headed Eagle society. He studied history and has many research publications. Bulgaria is one of the countries where he held a diplomatic position. He was a post-graduate student in Bulgaria. He speaks Bulgarian and Serbian. Studia Transmedia approached him in connection with the increasingly topical issue about the relations between Bulgaria and Russia.
Mr Reshetnikov, will the meeting between the presidents of Bulgaria and Russia materialize and how suitable is the chosen date of March 3, 2018?
The date, of course, is suitable. The leaders of Russia and Bulgaria should meet on exactly such a day. But there is a presidential election in Russia on March 18 and the main thing is that high-level meetings require some agreements on development of the economic, cultural etc. cooperation. That is a problem. As of today, that’s poor job.
President Putin has awarded you the Order for Merit to the Fatherland 4th class. Is that somehow related to your activity in Bulgaria?
I believe I received that order for the results of my entire work in the intelligence service and as director of the RISS. My service encompassed much more than Bulgaria or the Balkans. I had to take part in responsible work on a number of important international problems and parties. By the way, prior to that I was awarded two other orders: Order of Honor by Vladimir Putin and Order of Courage by Boris Eltsin.
During his Direct Line Q&A show Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that he was ready to give political asylum to the former director of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence James Comey. Do you think that is a serious statement?
Putin has a great sense of humor. That is how you should interpret that statement. Although it is such a mess in the American government and elite in general that nothing can be completely excluded. Someone may ask for an asylum.
Bulgaria is member of the EU and NATO. But it is often believed to be tightly connected economically and politically with Russia. What are Russia’s concrete interests in Bulgaria?
I think that what today connects Bulgaria with Russia is only the love of most Bulgarians for our country. As far as everything else is concerned, the ties are at a very high level. Russia has one main interest in relation to Bulgaria: that it should be as little dependent on external actors, mainly Washington and Brussels, as possible. Otherwise we may turn out to be in opposing trenches. That would be a tragedy for Orthodox Christianity, Slavism and Bulgaria.
In one of your interviews you say that the SouthStream project should be implemented. Please, give your reasons.
It is too late to give my reasons now. Russia is already looking for other options and finding them. The more so that Vladimir Putin is launching his program for Russia’s turn to the East, which will become a large-scale program after the presidential election. Europe remains an important direction but not the main one.
The project was suspended in 2014 because of major breaches of the European directives, after which the government fell and Corporate Commercial Bank went bankrupt. How do you explain these consequences?
What shall I explain? There was a good chance for development of mutually-beneficial economic cooperation. It was stopped only for political reasons of an anti-Russian character. Bulgaria turned out the weak unit in that project and suffered damage as a consequence.
You know Bulgaria well and we Bulgarians ourselves do not deny that there are close ties between the authorities and crime. Do you know how the Bulgarian mafia originated and developed?
It is all very simple in your country and in ours. The system collapsed and out of its shadow there crawled out “socialist” and “Komsomol” functionaries who, together with the new semi-bandits and the support of overseas “advisors”, started looting the abandoned home. They accumulated the so-called initial capital and then it is all a question of technique, as Karl Marx says.
People in Bulgaria have been protesting against oligarch Delyan Peevski for four years already. He declares millions of leva as member of parliament and holds a media empire. Media publications often connect him and his party MRF with the official authorities in Russia. Are you acquainted with his affairs?
I have never heard of Peevski’s connections with Russia. Maybe he is connected with some businessmen of ours? In these circles I practically have no contacts. I think it is more of a myth than the truth.
The Bulgarian media commented exhaustively on your meeting with Kornelia Ninova. In what capacity did you meet with her: as an analyst or as an intelligence agent?
Are they really still commenting? What, isn’t it well known that I was director of the analyst center of the Russian president’s administration called RISS? I constantly had dozens of meetings with ambassadors, ministers, political functionaries and even presidents of foreign states, which is natural for the head of such a center. Ninova asked for a meeting and we met. For me personally it was interesting to see if BSP had got a patriot leader or a leader as usual. Ninova probably wanted to hear the Russian assessment of the international problems. Our meeting lasted for about 30 minutes.
Recently in a Bulgarian media you spoke against Svetlana Sharenkova. However, she is viewed by the public in Bulgaria as one of Russia’s biggest friends. Is it no longer so?
She is viewed by the Bulgarian public as one of Russia’s biggest friends. That is your choice. I think Russians would find it very insulting if she was the main Russophile in Bulgaria. In Russia she is widely popular in very narrow circles. I criticized her for being mean and spreading slander when she started speaking in public that I was “discharged” from the position of director of the RISS for “corruption”. That is not just a brazen lie but schizophrenic ravings. By the way, may God be her judge. It is Bulgarians’ own business to define who is a Russophile and who is a Russo-parasite.