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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bulgaria Busts Chechen Crime Group

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria, an EU newcomer under pressure from the bloc to clean up its act, said Friday that it had broken up on a criminal network suspected of financing rebel groups in Chechnya.

The gang of mainly Chechens was involved in racketeering, blackmail, arms deals, money laundering and cigarette smuggling, the national security agency said in a statement. "The group is suspected of financing terrorist formations in Chechnya," it said.

It did not say how many members of the gang, which it said had been operating in Bulgaria since the end of the 1990s, were arrested.

Bulgaria has stepped up efforts against organized crime and uncovered several money laundering, drugs and human-trafficking groups ahead of a key EU report in July that will assess Sofia's progress. Brussels has warned the Balkan country that it could lose millions in EU aid if it fails to tackle corruption and rampant organized crime.