June 21. 2024. 4:51

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Bulgaria seeks to dissolve pro-Russian paramilitary groups linked to German extremists

The Bulgarian prosecutor’s office has filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down two pro-Russian paramilitary groups that have been particularly active on social media, with calls to change the country’s constitutional order.

“The two groups are working against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the nation and towards the incitement of ethnic or religious enmity,” the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

Both the Bulgarian National Movement “Shipka” and the Bulgarian Military Union “Vasil Levski” are registered in Varna, Bulgaria’s largest city on the Black Sea coast, just 300 kilometres from Ukraine.

The Bulgarian media first raised the alarm about the activities of both organisations in their investigations, as did the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. So far, the prosecutor’s office has ignored calls to intervene and demand the banning of the paramilitary groups, which openly boasted of preparing armed self-defence units and threatened to revise the country’s constitutional structure.

Now, however, investigating authorities have found that the leaders of the two associations had contacts with representatives of groups in Germany known for their far-right views, prosecutors said, without naming the German extremists.

Euractiv Bulgaria requested additional information from the prosecutor’s office about the German links of the Bulgarian paramilitary groups, but no response had been provided by the time of publication.

Pro-Russian organisations registered in Bulgaria have used calls for religious and ethnic hatred in their propaganda, as well as calls for action against foreign citizens and representatives of different ethnicities and religions.

“The investigation has gathered evidence that the associations have organised training sessions for their sympathisers to acquire certain combat skills. It was also found that organised visits were made to the border with Turkey in order to catch illegal migrants,” the prosecutor’s office said.

These groups attracted the attention of some independent Bulgarian media in the spring of 2016, when they announced the launch of Operation Liberation of Bulgaria and presented themselves as the “transitional common Bulgarian people’s government”.

Even then, the organisations’ websites publicly announced that they were discussing the creation of paramilitary structures, including their own “detachments, platoons, companies and battalions”.

Vladimir Rusev led Operation Liberation and introduced himself as Walther Kalashnikov, a combination of the German Walther pistol and the Russian AK-47 (Kalashnikov).

Rusev claimed to be a lieutenant colonel, but he only reached the rank of sergeant major in the Bulgarian army.

(Krassen Nikolov | Euractiv.bg)

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