Thousands demonstrate in Bulgaria to support Ukraine on invasion anniversary

Thousands demonstrate in Bulgaria to support Ukraine on invasion anniversary
/ Desislava Razsadova
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia February 26, 2023

Several thousand people marched in Bulgaria on February 24 to show their support for Ukraine on the anniversary of the start of the Russian invasion, under the slogan “No to the RuZZian terror! Bulgaria is with Ukraine”.

The march in the capital Sofia started in front of the presidency where people also showed their disapproval of the policy of President Rumen Radev, who has taken pro-Russian positions in the past year, including fiercely opposing any military aid to Ukraine.

“Here is not Moscow”, “Glory to Ukraine” and “Radev is a shame” were among the slogans chanted by people in Sofia.

A silent march of Ukrainian refugees accompanied the Bulgarian rally. Most of them women, they held a child in one arm and the Ukrainian flag with another. They were joined by Russians, some of them in tears, chanting along with Bulgarians and Ukrainians against the war and in support of Ukraine.

Military aid debate 

Ivan Kalchev, nicknamed Gligi, a member of Democratic Bulgaria who was a volunteer in the international legion fighting for Ukraine, told people that wars in the Black Sea region happen only among the countries that are not members of Nato.

This was a response to Radev’s accusation that Democratic Bulgaria and Change Continues – the two main pro-Western political formations in the country – are “the parties of war” due to their demands for more military aid to Ukraine.

Change Continues’ leaders were recently revealed to have secretly sent fuel and ammunition to Ukraine at the start of the war. 

The crowd was also addressed by Manol Peykov, a Bulgarian publisher who is a member of Democratic Bulgaria and who has put massive efforts into securing much-needed generators for Ukraine along with clothing for the Ukrainian army and other aid. Peykov gathered funds and found a way to transport more than 1,000 generators to Ukraine. For comparison, the Bulgarian state has only donated one.

Monument vandalised

Svetlozar Rayanov destroyed a sign expressing the gratitude of the Bulgarian people to the Soviet army. Rayanov acknowledged his act was vandalism but he had the urge to do it as what was written there was a lie.

“The sign on this monument is a historic lie,” the 61-year-old translator told Nova TV.

He added that his act was spontaneous and motivated by his refusal to accept the war.

“I was motivated by the speech of [Russian President Vladiomir] Putin who has hardened the tone in this war, as well as the actions of [the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora] Mitrofanova who brought flowers to that monument on the eve of the anniversary. I decided spontaneously that I had to do something to express my bitterness and indignation,” Rayanov said.

He added that he deliberately did not attack the monument at night but at 9.30 in the morning. He broke the sign with a hammer, an act that has already gathered massive approval on social media.

The pro-Russian Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) started a petition for restoration of the monument, put up during the communist regime in the country. Gerb’s leader Boyko Borissov started a separate initiative to have the monument demolished. However, this initiative was condemned as hypocritical as Gerb’s members of the Sofia municipal council have prevented that happening for years.

Bulgarians fear wider war

Despite the large protest, a poll carried out by Alpha Research showed that just 30.6% of Bulgarians want European countries to send more military aid to Ukraine, fearing this could involve other countries in the war. 51% of respondents think that Europe must act unanimously against the military aggression.

48% think that the EU must draft a strategy on the prevention of such military conflicts, while around 43% of people think that Bulgarian parties and institutions should also draft a united position towards the Russian war and the sanctions against Russia.