Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry has initiated a disciplinary investigation following reports that a police officer on duty to prevent clashes in the ethnically-charged situation in Orlandovtsi sent out racist messages on Facebook.
The messages, directed against Roma people, were the subject of extensive Bulgarian-language media coverage and comment on social networks.
Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova said that the police were acting even-handedly in Orlandovtsi, and before that had done so in Garmen, against anyone who violated public order, regardless of which district, neighbourhood or village they lived in.
The same principle applied to employees of the ministry, Buchvarova said.
The police officer who is the subject of the allegation that she posted the material, Anna Vitanova, became well-known to the Bulgarian public in July 2013 after appearing in public with an arm in bandages after a confrontation between police and anti-government protesters against the now-departed “Oresharski” cabinet.
Vitanova was reported to have taken legal action following reports questioning whether her injuries were genuine. She later was in the headlines again after photographs emerged purportedly showing her attending a traditional annual Bulgarian Socialist Party gathering.
The Facebook account has been suspended.
Buchvarova, speaking to reporters after a scheduled Cabinet meeting on June 27, did not rule out a connection between tensions in Orlandovtsi and the municipal elections upcoming in Bulgaria in October, but was reluctant to answer the question “who is playing with fire?”.
This was a reference to a statement a day earlier by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov saying that, as a former firefighter, he was warning people against playing with fire – in the sense of sparking ethnic conflict. In some political quarters, Borissov has been challenged to say at whom his comments were directed.
Buchvarova told reporters, “I cannot say specifically, I cannot say a name, but the fact is that there is a style of organisation, that there are people who in one way or another are included in these events, means that there is something that stands out, specific cases. I hope you understand”.