Bulgaria’s former ambassador to the United States, Elena Poptodorova, has described an incident at Warsaw Airport in which she was held for alleged shoplifting as the result of an “honest mistake” while former foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin said that Russia had used the incident in hybrid warfare.
Poptodorova was detained at the airport in the Polish capital on February 27 after stepping out of a duty-free shop holding cosmetics valued at 381 euro. Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the incident on February 28 after reports in the Russian, Polish and Bulgarian media.
Speaking to Bulgarian news agency BTA, Poptodorova said that she could afford to buy cosmetics.
The incident was the result of her stepping out of the shop to take a mobile phone call from her seriously ill mother, while forgetting that she was still holding the cosmetics. This was an “honest mistake,” not a matter of shoplifting, Poptodorova said.
She said that she had apologised and paid a fine. The case was closed, she said.
Ivailo Kalfin, who was Bulgaria’s foreign minister from 2005 to 2009, described Russian media coverage of the incident as part of a propaganda war, given that these media reports had underlined that Poptodorova had been an advocate of Bulgaria’s accession to the EU and Nato.
“I do not follow the Russian media, but I noticed that 90 Russian media had written about this,” Kalfin said, adding “and after that, naturally, all the Bulgarian (media)”.
Kalfin said that he knew Poptodorova, and could not imagine her “grabbing a perfume, running through the airport with the police in pursuit”. It was unacceptable that the Polish police had made the case public, he said.
“Yes, Bulgaria is interesting, but really why is Russia so interested? I took this as part of the propaganda, how bad pro-Nato people are, they steal perfumes at the airport,” Kalfin said.
(Photo: Veni Markovski)