Police foil bids by ‘green certificate’ protesters to storm Bulgaria’s Parliament

Four police were taken to hospital after being injured in a struggle with protesters against the green certificate system who were trying to force their way into Bulgaria’s Parliament in capital city Sofia on January 12.

The protesters, numbering more than 1000 – many of them brought in from other parts of Bulgaria on buses provided by “anti-vaxxer”, pro-Kremlin political party Vuzrazhdane – made repeated attempts to get into the legislature building. Reporters at the scene said that arrests of the more aggressive protesters were made.

The protest came on the day that a record number of new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Bulgaria, the country with the lowest rate of vaccination in the EU-EEA, well below the average.

As the protest began, police took into custody a man near the steps of Parliament who was found in possession of a firearm.

The protest began as Parliament’s sitting for the day ended. Standing committee meetings that had been scheduled for the afternoon were cancelled.

Protesters carried posters saying “hands off our children” and “I want a normal life” and there were chants of “freedom” and “Bulgaria”. Some participants carried Confederate and Gadsden flags, while at one point, Russian songs were played on the PA system.

Vuzrazhdane leader Kostadin Kostadinov addressed the crowd via video link. Kostadinov is in quarantine as a contact person after attending a meeting held by President Roumen Radev on January 10.

When protesters pushed back the police cordon to the doors of the main entrance of the National Assembly, National Security Service staff inside the building used tables and other objects to barricade the doors from within.

One MP for Vuzrazhdane, which has all of 13 members of the 240-member legislature, was seen trying to remove a table from the makeshift barricade. Other MPs reportedly urged security staff to unbar the way and admit the crowd into the Parliament building.

Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, also in quarantine as a contact person after Radev’s meeting, said in a television interview that had he not been in quarantine, he would have been “happy” to speak to the protesters, as he had taken part in protests himself and respected this civil right.

Petkov said that he would be willing to receive a delegation after his quarantine ends, if protesters sent a working group of qualified medical professionals.

“If there are people from their protest who are known to have professional qualities, we will be happy to hear their ideas for a more constructive way to manage the Covid crisis,” Petkov said, while adding: “I do not operate under pressure”.

He said that the green certificate system would not be dropped.

In the House on Wednesday morning, a declaration was read on behalf of Petkov’s We Continue the Change party by MP Tatyana Sultanova-Siveva against the Covid-19 disinformation being spread by Vuzrazhdane, though the declaration did not mention Kostadinov’s party by name.

The declaration said that the disinformation campaign against vaccination campaign had brought extreme disunity to society at a time when it should be fully united.

It said that representatives of a parliamentary party that does not have a single person with a medical education have repeatedly and openly spoken out against vaccines, calling them experimental liquids and substances.

“In this way, they nurture people’s distrust, sow confusion, demonstrating a complete lack of concern for people’s health and our already unstable health system,” Sultanova-Siveva said.

She said that such behaviour was aimed only at extracting political dividends.

Representatives of Vuzrazhdane were politically hypocritical, advising citizens not to get vaccinated, even though they are being vaccinated, Sultanova-Siveva said, referring to weekend media reports that of Kostadinov’s parliamentary group, a third had been vaccinated and had received green certificates.

(Screenshot via bTV’s live stream)

The Sofia Globe’s coverage of the Covid-19 situation in Bulgaria is supported by the Embassies of Switzerland and Finland.

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