Bulgaria: Official condemnation, public protests, against Russian invasion of Ukraine

There was a large turnout at a public protest outside the Russian embassy in Sofia on the evening of February 24, expressing outrage at the invasion of Ukraine, while Bulgarian state, government and political leaders condemned the massive military aggression ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was also planned for later in the evening at the Soviet Army Monument in Sofia, while one was held earlier in the day outside the Russian consulate in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna.

The protest outside the Russian embassy, which overflowed to block the boulevard outside, included not only people who have relatives in Ukraine, but also Bulgarians who said they were there in protest that the clock had been turned back a century, Bulgarian National Television reported.

“I do not like Putin’s aggression and his policies over the past 20 years. Every country has the right to free choice and Ukraine did, and he disagrees and becomes an aggressor,” Anastasia, a Ukrainian-born woman, told Bulgarian National Radio.

Participants waved Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Nato flags and signs saying “Stop Putin”. They urged Bulgaria to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Protesters said that they would turn out as long as necessary, and would come to the same place every day.

From Varna, local media reported that Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians and residents of Belarus protested outside the Russian consulate at noon.

Protesters chanted “Murderers” and held signs reading “War with Ukraine is a disgrace to Russia”, “If there is no Putin, there is no war” and “Stop Putin today”.

A representative of the Ukrainian community in Bulgaria’s city of Plovdiv told Bulgarian National Television that a protest would be held outside the Plovdiv municipality building at 6pm on February 25.

Earlier, Bulgaria’s National Assembly overwhelmingly approved a declaration condemning Russian military aggression against Ukraine, backing sanctions and calling on Russia to cease hostilities immediately and return to full compliance with international law.

The vote was followed by a hearing behind closed doors of Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska, Defence Minister Stefan Yanev and the heads of defence and intelligence services.

In the morning, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was strongly condemned by Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and President Roumen Radev.

Petkov was headed in the evening to Brussels for an emergency meeting of EU leaders to approve stronger sanctions against Putin’s Russia.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference that a February 24 meeting of the North Atlantic Council had addressed a request by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to hold urgent consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty.

Under Article 4 of Nato’s founding treaty, member states can bring any issue of concern, especially related to the security of a member country, to the table for discussion within the North Atlantic Council.

Stoltenberg told the briefing that the North Atlantic Council had decided to activate Nato’s defence plans.

“This is a prudent and defensive step to protect and shield Allied nations during this crisis,” Stoltenberg said.

“And it will enable us to deploy capabilities and forces, including the Nato Response Force, to where they are needed,” he said.

“We have increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance with thousands of more troops, ships and planes over the last weeks to send a very clear message; an attack on one ally will trigger the response of the whole Alliance.

“And we do so not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict. What we do is defensive, it’s prudent, its measured, but it is necessary, because we see the aggressive actions of Russia against Ukraine, and therefore allies also how to make sure that there is no room for any misunderstanding about that Russia can’t do anything like that against a Nato allied country,” Stoltenberg said.

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