How a Poisoning in Bulgaria Exposed Russian Assassins in Europe

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The poison took effect slowly.

Mr. Gebrev first realized something was wrong on the evening of April 27, 2015, when his right eye suddenly turned “as red as the red on the Russian flag.” It felt, he said, as if someone had dumped a bucket of sand into his pupil.

The next evening, Mr. Gebrev went to his favorite restaurant on the 19th floor of the Hotel Marinela, a luxury hangout in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, where the clientele can pose for selfies with the peacocks wandering freely around the bar. At dinner, Mr. Gebrev began to vomit violently and was rushed to a military hospital. There, he began to see explosions of vivid colors. Then, his field of vision suddenly turned to black and white.

As his hallucinations intensified, he imagined angry, fantastical creatures that threatened to drag him away.

“I visited the afterlife three times, by my estimate,” he said in one of a series of interviews conducted over the past half year. “The doctors said they almost lost me.”

A day later, the company’s production manager, Valentin Tahchiev, was hospitalized, too. Days after that, Mr. Gebrev’s son, Hristo, who was being groomed to lead Mr. Gebrev’s company, Emco, was also rushed to intensive care.

“When they get rid of me and my son, the company will be destroyed,” Mr. Gebrev said later. “Who would sign contracts? Who has the rights?”


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