Russia reacts to US diplomat Jessica Kim comparing Bulgarian corruption to a "pandemic that cannot be treated with a vaccination”

Russia has seized upon remarks by US diplomat Jessica Kim comparing corruption in Bulgaria with a “pandemic that cannot be treated with a single or double vaccination”.

Ms. Kim, resident legal advisor at the US embassy in Sofia, was speaking during an online event hosted by The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria on January 28th.

Commenting on a US State Department report, which said corruption in Bulgaria was endemic, she said that the ability to investigate corruption in Bulgaria has been undermined by oligarchic influences and lack of media freedom.

The Russian embassy said "We believe that such mentoring statements, as always, without concrete evidence, de facto cast a shadow on both politicians and officials of the justice system of the Republic of Bulgaria”.

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Ms. Kim also criticised Bulgarian leaders, but refrained from naming Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, whose integrity has been "called into question" following the publication of photographs taken in his bedroom revealing bundles of €500 notes as well as gold ingots and a 9mm Glock handgun.

Borissov, who officially has no personal wealth, but has, according to Bulgarian media, run up significant gambling losses over the years, has not denied the authenticity of the photos.

He has reportedly suggested that Bulgarian President Rumen Radev had sent “a nice woman” to "do the job" in his bedroom. Many however suggest the attack may have come from fugitive gambling mogul Vassil Bozhkov, dubbed Cherepa (The Skull), who has had a major falling out with Borissov.

Publication of the images caused public demonstrations in Bulgaria, and sparked calls for Borissov's resignation.

Russia's defence of Borissov is unsurprising, as it has long regarded Bulgaria as its "Trojan horse" in the EU. Borisov himself is a valuable asset for the Kremlin as his government is officially engaged in the construction, at Bulgarian taxpayer's expense, of a gas pipeline linking Turkey to Serbia by way of Bulgaria.

Former Bulgarian Ambassador to Moscow, Mr Ilyan Vasilev, has claimed that the Borisov regime has specifically allowed Russian state companies and institutions access to such strategic infrastructure, whilst waving aside all applicable procedures and laws.

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