Ukraine’s embassy slams Bulgarian media regulator head over Bucha comments

The Ukrainian embassy in Sofia has described comments by the head of Bulgaria broadcast regulator the Council for Electronic Media (CEM), Sonya Momchilova, about the Bucha massacre as “propaganda” as unacceptable and manipulative.

In a vlog interview on June 20, Momchilova – appointed to CEM from the quota of President Roumen Radev – said, according to a report by Bulgarian news agency BTA, that she “absolutely disagreed” with allegations that the Bulgarian media are “a vehicle of the Kremlin’s interests and information” and said that “propaganda runs in the opposite direction, too: about Putin’s illness, his disease, about Bucha, etc.”

In a post on Facebook, the Ukrainian embassy said: “We categorically insist that distorting the facts in the context of Russia’s full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine is unacceptable.

“The tragedy in Bucha was recognized by the international community through the adoption of a declaration, to which the Republic of Bulgaria officially joined in April 2023,” the embassy said.

The document states: “We, representatives of the States and International organizations, met on 31 March 2023 for the Bucha Summit on Russia’s accountability for the crimes in Ukraine… have resolved as follows: Сondemn in the strongest possible terms the serious crimes under international law that have been committed on the territory of Ukraine, including the Bucha massacre which became a symbol of the horrors of the Russian aggression”.

The Ukrainian embassy said that following the de-occupation of Bucha in spring 2022, international experts documented 1400 killings (including 37 children), numerous cases of rape, torture, and other war crimes. Currently, nearly 11 000 war crimes are being investigated in the Kyiv region.

“Overall, within the framework of the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for investigating crimes committed by the Russian political leadership against Ukraine, evidence has been collected regarding 96 000 war crimes, along with the destruction of vital civilian infrastructure (over 100 000 objects),” the embassy said.

The embassy said that it expects CEM and the relevant Bulgarian institutions to refute and take the necessary measures to respond to the dangerous and misleading claims regarding the atrocities committed by Russian occupiers in Bucha.

“These claims contradict the official position of the Republic of Bulgaria as a member state of the EU and Nato,” the embassy said.

The United States embassy to Bulgaria said on Facebook on June 21, without referring directly to Momchilova: “The Kremlin’s disinformation machine goes into overdrive when denying Russia’s targeting of civilians.

“When Ukrainian forces liberated the town of Bucha, they discovered a massacre. Hundreds of men, women, and children killed indiscriminately by Russian forces. These acts are part of a campaign of widespread and systematic violence against civilians. Don’t be fooled by the lies,” the US embassy said.

CEM said in a statement on June 22 that it strongly disagrees with any suggestion of denial of the Bucha atrocities.

“It is a matter of a monstrous act of torture and murder of civilians,” CEM said, adding that it had carried out numerous observations of broadcasters’ programme for compliance with the Radio and Television Act.

“Administrative penal proceedings have already been initiated and pecuniary sanctions have been imposed on media providers who deny the atrocities of the war,” CEM said.

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