This comp of court artist sketches by Elizabeth Cook of...

This comp of court artist sketches by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian nationals, left to right, Katrin Ivanova, Vanya Gaberova, Orlin Roussev, Ivan Stoyanov and Bizer Dzhambazov appearing via video link at Westminster Magistrates' Court, London, charged with spying for Russia, Tuesday Sept. 26, 2023. Five Bulgarians living in the U.K. who were charged with spying for Russia appeared Tuesday in court for a brief hearing. Credit: AP/Elizabeth Cook

LONDON — Five Bulgarians living in the U.K. who were charged with spying for Russia appeared Tuesday in court for an initial hearing.

The three men and two women were accused of “conspiring to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy,” namely Russia, between August 2020 and February this year.

The five are alleged to be part of a network conducting surveillance on behalf of Russia. Much of the activity took place abroad, but coordination took place in the U.K., prosecutors said.

The five — Orlin Roussev, 45;, Bizer Dzhambazov, 41; Katrin Ivanova, 31; Ivan Stoyanov, 31; and Vanya Gaberova, 29 — appeared Tuesday by video at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. The suspects, who are in custody in separate prisons, spoke only to confirm basic details.

The suspects were arrested by the Metropolitan Police's counterterrorism officers in February under the Official Secrets Act.

Roussev, Dzhambazov, and Ivanova were charged in February with having false identity documents, but news about them did not emerge until August.

The three are accused of possessing 34 ID documents, some of which were suspected to be false, from the U.K., Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and the Czech Republic.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian national Katrin...

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian national Katrin Ivanova, appearing via video link at Westminster Magistrates' Court, London, charged with spying for Russia, Tuesday Sept. 26, 2023. Five Bulgarians living in the U.K. who were charged with spying for Russia appeared Tuesday in court for a brief hearing. Credit: AP/Elizabeth Cook

All five were remanded into custody until their next appearance at the Central Criminal Court on Oct. 13.

Details about the suspects and how they operated remain patchy. Roussev reportedly worked in telecoms services, and his LinkedIn profile states that he was the owner of an artificial intelligence company named NewGenTech. He was reportedly living in a guesthouse in the town of Great Yarmouth, on eastern England's coast, when he was arrested.

Ivanova's online profile describes her as a medical laboratory assistant, while government records show that Gaberova was a beautician who ran a west London salon called Pretty Woman from 2019. British media have published photos of Gaberova posing at eyelash extension competitions.

The suspects were accused of conspiring to collect information with “another person known as Jan Marsalek and others unknown."

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian national Bizer...

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bulgarian national Bizer Dzhambazov, appearing via video link at Westminster Magistrates' Court, London, charged with spying for Russia, Tuesday Sept. 26, 2023. Five Bulgarians living in the U.K. who were charged with spying for Russia appeared Tuesday in court for a brief hearing. Credit: AP/Elizabeth Cook

Marsalek, an Austrian national who is not charged in connection with the case, was the former chief operating officer of German payment systems provider Wirecard, which collapsed in 2020 in a fraud scandal.

Marsalek, who is considered a key figure in that scandal, has been on the run since the summer of 2020. His whereabouts remain unclear.

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