The parliamentary group of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party issued a call on March 8 for President Roumen Radev to make public the transcript of his meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill.
This was the latest twist in the controversy that has followed Kirill’s visit to Bulgaria for the country’s Liberation Day weekend, which ended with the Russian Patriarch hitting out at Bulgarian leaders who acknowledged the role of countries other than Russia in its liberation from the Ottoman Empire.
Russia has made public a video of Kirill’s meeting with Radev, during which the Russian Patriarch forcefully criticised the Bulgarian head of state on the issue.
GERB MP Toma Bikov told journalists that the transcript of the Radev – Kirill meeting should be released because of the high level of public interest in what was said during the talks.
Bikov said that the transcript should be released to dispel any doubts whether the positions expressed by Borissov (who also held talks with Kirill) and by Radev were the same, and whether Radev had defended Bulgaria’s national position.
There are frequent political tensions between GERB and Radev, head of state since January 2017 following his election on a ticket backed by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party.
“We respect the Russian army, we are grateful that it has fought a war in the name of Bulgarian freedom, but there were Bulgarian volunteers as well as other nationalities,” Bikov said.
“This is a theme related not only to the past, but also to the present and the future,” he said.
“We want declassification of the transcript to make sure we all have a united position about March 3,” Bikov said, referring to the date of Bulgaria’s Liberation Day.
A few hours after the GERB statement, the President’s office said that no transcript of the meeting had been made. It said that the President always defended the Bulgarian national position.
There is little precedent for Bulgarian heads of state releasing transcripts of meetings. In March 2010, there was a major political controversy when then-president Georgi Purvanov made public a transcript of a meeting he had held with then-finance minister Simeon Dyankov, who held that post in the first of Borissov’s three governments.
Meanwhile, in a television interview on the morning of March 8, United Patriots co-leader and Ataka party leader Volen Siderov reiterated his call for Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, another of the United Patriots’ co-leaders, to apologise to Kirill for his remarks against him the day before.
Simeonov referred to Kirill as a “second-rate Soviet cop” who had no place lecturing the Bulgarian head of state about history.
This led to the other two of the three parties in the United Patriots parliamentary group issuing a call for Simeonov to apologise. On March 8, the BSP issued a call to the Bulgarian government to distance itself from Simeonov’s verbal assault on Patriarch Kirill.
Siderov said that the fact that Bulgaria was revived as a nation was due to Russia, “to the Russian Tsar who said ‘we are going to liberate the Christian enslaved peoples’.”
The Ataka leader said that Bulgaria had “scattered its gratitude” among all the nationalities that had participated in the Russo-Turkish War. “But if it was not for the manifesto, the order, the decision of the Russian Tsar, there would not have been Romanians, Finns, and others to join the Russian regular army,” Siderov said.