Bulgarian PM Borissov orders Defence Ministry official fired over Hitler salute photo

In the second controversy to hit the Bulgarian government over a photo involving a Hitler salute, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has ordered the dismissal of the head of the Defence Ministry’s social activities department over a picture of him making the salute next to a World War 2 German tank at the Military History Museum in Sofia.

The order came amid national controversy over a photo of Pavel Tenev making a Nazi salute at a Paris waxworks museum, leading to his resignation after just two days in office as deputy minister of regional development and public works.

The Defence Ministry official, Ivo Antonov, is linked to the nationalist United Patriots coalition that is the minority partner in Borissov’s May 2017 coalition government. Tenev had been appointed a deputy minister from the United Patriots’ quota.

The existence of the photo of Antonov making the Nazi salute next to the Maybach tank is not news. It emerged three years ago when he was nominated to become a deputy defence minister. That, and allegations of him being a Hitler sympathiser, led to his nomination being withdrawn, local television station bTV reported on May 18.

But currently Antonov’s Facebook profile still has photos of historical events related to the Third Reich and favourable assessments of that regime, reports said.

Antonov has been with the military for some time, in charge of social activities and restoration and preservation of military cemeteries.

When the Nazi salute photo again gained public prominence, against the background of the Tenev affair, Borissov ordered deputy defence minister Anatoli Velichkov to dismiss Antonov.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, parliamentary leader of Borissov’s GERB party, told reporters on Thursday: “Such images and statements will not be tolerated”.

Tsvetanov apologised to everyone for the “inconvenience”. He said that the government was “doing many good things, but we have to respond to such scandals”.

He said that he was not concerned about reaction from the rest of Europe about the photos. “I am convinced that by our behaviour, GERB has shown its European People’s Party partners that we will not compromise our European values,” Tsvetanov said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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