The Sofia regional directorate of the Interior Ministry and Bulgaria’s National Protection Service have told the city municipality that they believe that the “Lukov March”, in honour of a Second World War pro-Nazi Bulgarian general, planned for February 17 2018 should be banned.
In calling for the ban, they cite the fact that the planned route involves streets and places to be used to transport and accommodation of delegates who will be in Sofia for events related to Bulgaria’s six-month hosting of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
According to Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Valentin Radev, a further reason is that, “in view of the complicated international situation because of the influx of migrants into Europe, the terrorist attacks in France, Germany, Turkey and Belgium, and the emergence of xenophobic manifestations in various parts of the world, the alleged involvement of persons with nationalist beliefes should described as having a high degree of public danger”.
This emerged from a written reply by Radev to a question from Movement for Rights and Freedoms MP Dzheyhan Ibryamov, tabled in Parliament earlier, and the subject of follow-up questions during the National Assembly’s November 24 sitting.
The Lukov March has been held annually since 2003, featuring a torchlight procession by dark-clad youths and the laying of wreaths at what was the home of General Hristo Lukov in Trakiya Street in central Sofia.
Organised by the far-right Bulgarian National Union and with the participation of the youth wing of the nationalist VMRO, the Lukov March has attracted the participation of neo-Nazi organisations from other parts of Europe who have come to Sofia especially for it.
The march repeatedly has been the subject of calls for it to be banned, from the embassies of Russia, the United States, Israel, from the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria, and from the MRF and Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Ahead of the planned February 2018 Lukov March, Shalom has initiated a full campaign for the event to be banned.
Annually, in spite of the municipality denying permission for the Lukov March, it has gone ahead anyway, under heavy police protection.
Interior Minister Radev, noting that Bulgaria will hold the EU Presidency in 2018, said that there would be many foreign delegations in the capital city. The main meetings will be in central Sofia, and the travel route of the delegations coincides with the route of the Lukov March, while hotels where foreign guests would be staying were in this area too.
The organisers lodged an application with Sofia municipality on September 8 to hold the Lukov March, in the name of the Bulgarian People’s Union – Edelweiss.
The planned route, from 5pm to 9pm, passes from the square in front of Sveta Nedelya church, Nezavisimost Square, along Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard, Rakovski Street and Oborishte Street, with the laying of flowers at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, and then on to Lukov’s Trakiya Street house.
Lukov was assassinated on February 13 1943 by a communist partisan team. Lukov was a founder of the Union of Bulgarian National Legions, a pro-Nazi grouping which had considerable influence during the war, in which Bulgaria was allied to Hitler’s Germany.
MP Ibryamov, putting follow-up questions in the House on November 24, called on Interior Minister Radev to stop the propagation of fascist symbols in Bulgaria and to deal with organisations that carry out fascist processions.
He asked Radev what measures the Interior Ministry was taking to stop the activities of fascist organisations in Bulgaria. Ibryamov cited a reply by Radev in a previous Question Time that said that there were no fascist organisations in Bulgaria and the ministry collected no data about them.
Ibryamov challenged this, saying that he did not accept that there were no such organisations. He said that the ministry said that there were no such organisations precisely because it did not collect data about them.
The organisers of the Lukov March defined themselves as far-right nationalists, Ibryamov said.
Radev replied that the Interior Ministry had not received information about registered parties or nation socialist organisation, or formations distributing swastikas and other fascist symbols. All measures of the law would be taken if such happened, he said.
In a follow-up question, Ibryamov showed a British media clipping depicting the sale of souvenirs with the face of Hitler (presumably, the UK media reporting that followed the original reporting by The Sofia Globe). He said that he was not satisfied by the minister’s answer.
“You have the right to say whatever you want, I am obliged to answer the question, how many and what organisations there are in Bulgaria and what is being done, and there are no such in Bulgaria,” Radev said.
* Regarding the Hitler mugs in Sunny Beach, as the The Sofia Globe reported previously, after Bulgaria’s embassy in Israel and Shalom issued an alert via official channels, the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry and the municipality moved swiftly to get these removed.