Bulgarian prosecutors seek to break up pro-Russian paramilitary groups

Bulgarian prosecutors seek to break up pro-Russian paramilitary groups
Two paramilitary groups in Bulgaria organise secret combat training and civilian patrols of Bulgaria-Turkey border. / bnoshipka.org
By bne IntelliNews May 23, 2024

The Varna District Prosecutor's Office said on May 22 it has filed a requests to dissolve two pro-Russian paramilitary groups - the Bulgarian National Movement Shipka and the Bulgarian Military Union Vassil Levski, it said in a statement.

The decision came a year and half after the prosecution launched a probe into the operations of the two organisations, which are connected to each other and do not hide their pro-Russian orientation.

For years, the two organisations have carried out tactical military trainings with participants wearing masks and uniforms. They are against Bulgaria’s membership in Nato and the EU.

The leaders of the two organisations are accused of activities that threaten national sovereignty and incite ethnic or religious hatred.

The Varna prosecution says that the groups' actions were directed against the unity and territorial integrity of Bulgaria, fostering ethnic or religious hatred.

In 2022, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Bulgarian prosecution launched an investigation into Shipka. Although the investigation was reportedly dropped in early 2024, the prosecution is now requesting its dissolution.

In its request, the prosecution says the two organisations violate Article 44, Paragraph 2 of the Bulgarian Constitution, which prohibits organisations that undermine national unity or incite hatred. Evidence indicates that they promoted religious and ethnic hatred and encouraged violence against foreign nationals. They also provided combat training to their supporters and organised civilian patrols along the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

The leaders of these organisations have also maintained connections with far-right factions in Germany.

Meanwhile, Todor Angelov, a Bulgarian candidate for the European Parliament (MEP), has reportedly visited the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia region, which is currently under Russian occupation, according to TASS. Angelov previously stated in a video from late 2023 that his candidacy aims to challenge Bulgaria's geopolitical alignment and had shared on his Facebook account that he spent a week in the occupied region.

Angelov told TASS that his visit was intended to meet with local ethnic Bulgarians, whose presence was previously unknown. He also described the situation in the Zaporizhzhia region, which was occupied by Russia in 2022 and illegally annexed, as normal, and criticised Bulgaria's military aid to Ukraine.