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Pro-Russian force protests against NATO bases in Bulgaria, wants government out

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Bulgarian police on Thursday (21 September) scuffled with supporters of the ultra-nationalist and pro-Russian Vazrazhdane (Revival) party protesting against the policies of the pro-Western government, calling for the government to resign and for the closure of NATO military bases.

Hundreds of protesters opposing the EU member’s support for Ukraine in its war with Russia gathered in front of the parliament building, waving Bulgarian and Russian national flags, blowing whistles and demanding an early election in the country which has gone through five polls in the past two years.

Many shouted “Resignation”, while fully equipped riot police protected the government buildings, including the defence ministry at which some protesters threw eggs.

Bulgaria, which has sent arms to Ukraine, lifted its ban on Ukrainian grains last week.

“Bulgarians do not want to participate in the war between Russia and Ukraine, we want to be a neutral country,” said Neli Tyulekova, 60, a businesswoman. She said that Bulgarians opposed sending arms to Ukraine, “which incites the war further”.

Some protesters carried placards reading “American bases out! Bulgaria is a zone of peace”, referring to the announcement of the construction of a new military facility in the NATO member.

“The last instruction that came from the masters of Bulgaria, from the US, is for Bulgaria to make a new military base,” Kostadin Kostadinov, the leader of Vazrazhdane, told the crowd. “NATO Out!”

The protesters ended their walk in front of a monument to the Soviet army, and clashed with police trying to stop them from getting close to the monument that has been put under scaffolding for security reasons.

A protester from the “Vazrazhdane” party tore down the fence around the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, clashes with the police followedSource: ??????????, Facebook#News #Bulgaria

— ?????????? 24 (@Novinarnik24) September 22, 2023

The government has decided to remove the monument, but there is no timeline for the works.

Neli Balabanska, 51, an electric engineer, said she hoped the protests will force the government out.

Separately on Thursday, Bulgaria expelled one Russian and two Belarusian nationals and barred them from entering Bulgaria in the next five years by order of the State Agency for National Security (SANS).

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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