Controversy-hit Interior Minister: ‘I do not tolerate or accept any form of violence’

Kalin Stoyanov, Bulgaria’s Interior Minister at the centre of a political row over police brutality at a football protest, said on November 21 that he does not tolerate or accept any form of violence “both against civilians and police”.

Stoyanov’s statement came a day after Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov called on Stoyanov to take a firm stand against police brutality, with Denkov saying that if this did not happen, he would resign as PM.

Stoyanov has been the subject of calls, including from We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria co-leader Kiril Petkov, to resign over police behaviour at the November 16 street battle that erupted during a protest in Sofia demanding the resignation of the head of the Bulgarian Football Union.

“Anyone who has exceeded their rights will be punished. No one should doubt that,” Stoyanov said at the November 21 briefing.

“I have ordered systematic checks. I am 100 per cent with Prime Minister Denkov about a thorough analysis of the individual cases of violence during the protest by football fans,” he said, adding “But I do not agree that the work of the ministry should be under a common denominator about individual single cases in which authority was exceeded”.

“I congratulate all conscientious employees, who mastered this unprecedented vandal aggression. You were insulted, spat at, bombarded, and yet you managed,” Stoyanov said, saying that they done a “perfect job”.

He said that it was not practice anywhere “in Europe, of which Bulgaria is a part” for the interior minister to resign after such protests.

Stoyanov quoted the statute that says that the interior minister does not have operational control on the ground over the actions of the police. He reiterated that he did not intend submitting his resignation.

The head of the Sofia directorate of the Interior Ministry, Lyubomir Nikolov, told the briefing that in less than 48 hours, five people had been identified who had exceeded their authority. Three – a division commander and two senior police – had been suspended and the others were under investigation, he said.

Stoyanov, Interior Ministry chief secretary Zhivko Kotsev and Nikolov, after making their statements, left the briefing, ignoring questions from reporters.

On the morning of November 21, while Petkov was being interviewed on television, Stoyanov phoned in to the studio, resulting in a slanging match between the two.

Petkov had described how Stoyanov had come to be appointed to the government, on the recommendation of Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF, and said that Stoyanov was now only a minister from GERB-UDF and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Stoyanov alleged that Petkov had sought to interfere politically in the work of the Interior Ministry.

(Photo of Stoyanov:

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