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Posts tagged ‘Cyrillic Land of Bulgaria’

UEFA closes Bulgaria stadium for fan racism at England game

October 29, 2019

NYON, Switzerland (AP) — Bulgaria was punished Tuesday for the Nazi salutes and racist chanting of its soccer fans with an order to play a European Championship qualifying game in an empty stadium, although the team avoided expulsion from the competition.

UEFA’s options to deal with the incidents in Sofia at a Euro 2020 qualifier against England could have removed Bulgaria from the playoffs in March. The UEFA disciplinary panel also put Bulgaria on probation for two years, which should include most of the 2022 World Cup qualifying program. A repeat offense will trigger a stadium closure for a second competitive game.

Bulgaria fans made Nazi salutes and targeted monkey noises at England’s black players during a 6-0 loss two weeks ago. The game was twice stopped by the referee following UEFA guidelines to address discrimination.

The Bulgarian soccer federation was fined 85,000 euros ($94,000), including the mandated 50,000 euros ($55,500) for a second charge of racist behavior. A charge of fans throwing objects was also proven.

Although the England game was the third time Bulgaria fans were guilty of racist behavior this year, the previous incidents at back-to-back Euro 2020 qualifiers in June were judged together in July. UEFA’s disciplinary code states a team will be punished for a second offense with “one match played behind closed doors and a fine of 50,000 euros.”

A third offense “is punished with more than one match behind closed doors, a stadium closure, the forfeiting of a match, the deduction of points and/or disqualification from the competition,” according to UEFA rules.

Bulgaria’s next home game is against the Czech Republic on Nov. 17. The stadium closure will likely cost the national soccer body at least 100,000 euros ($110,000) in lost revenue. Bulgaria drew about 5,000 fans for home games against Kosovo and Montenegro, then more than 17,000 to see England.

Bulgaria is last in Group A with no chance to advance to Euro 2020 by finishing in the top places. However, the sanctions do not affect Bulgaria’s second chance to reach the final tournament from the playoff round in March. Potential playoff opponents include Iceland and Scotland.

A UEFA charge of Bulgaria fans causing disturbance during the national anthem for England accounted for 10,000 euros ($11,100) of the 85,000 euros ($94,000) fine. The English Football Association was fined 5,000 euros ($5,500) for a similar charge.

Bulgarian nationalists march in honor of pro-Nazi general

February 16, 2019

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian nationalists have marched through Sofia, the country’s capital, to honor a World War II general known for his anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activities. The annual Lukov March, staged by the far-right Bulgarian National Union, attracted hundreds of dark-clad supporters who walked through downtown Sofia holding torches and Bulgarian flags and chanting nationalist slogans.

It came despite strong condemnation by human rights groups, political parties and foreign embassies. The city mayor had banned the rally but organizers won a court order overturning the ban. A heavy police presence blocked any clashes between nationalists and their opponents.

Ahead of the march, the World Jewish Congress warned about the rise of far-right activities across Europe aimed at promoting anti-Semitism, hatred, xenophobia and Nazi glorification among young people.

“We urge governments across Europe to prioritize the introduction of administrative bans against such marches. This is not just a problem of the Jewish communities, but of European citizens and governments at large,” the organization’s CEO Robert Singer said.

In Sofia, the marchers praised Gen. Hristo Lukov, who had supported Germany during World War II and was killed by an anti-fascist resistance movement on Feb. 13, 1943. The general served as Bulgaria’s war minister from 1935 to 1938, and led the pro-Nazi Germany Union of Bulgarian Legions from 1932 until 1943.

Organizers deny that Lukov was an anti-Semitic fascist or that they are neo-fascists, but claim that the descendants of the murderers of Lukov are afraid of the event. Zvezdomir Andronov, leader of the Bulgarian National Union, says the group’s main objective is “the salvation of the Bulgarian people” from the social and economic crisis the country has been facing for many decades.

Nationalists from other European countries voiced anti-globalist and anti-EU slogans at the march and called on their peers from across the continent to join forces. “We want to get in contact with other nationalists in Europe, as we strongly believe that free, independent countries are very important. We want to regain the power from the globalists — the people who are running the EU, the people who are devastating Europe,” said Per Sjogren of Sweden’s Nordic Resistance Movement.

Tourist bus crashes in Bulgaria; 16 reported killed

August 25, 2018

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian authorities say a tourist bus has flipped over on a highway near Sofia, the capital, killing at least 16 people and leaving 26 others injured. Police said a bus carrying tourists on a weekend trip to a nearby resort overturned and then fell down a side road 20 meters (66 feet) below the highway. The accident happened at 5:10 p.m. Saturday about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Sofia.

Ambulances rushed to the scene and took the injured to Sofia hospitals. Doctors said some of them were in critical condition. Health Minister Kiril Ananiev gave an initial death toll of 15, but doctors from Sofia’s emergency hospital said another bus victim died Saturday night.

The major of Bozhurishte, north of Sofia, told reporters that all the passengers were from his village. The government declared Monday a national day of mourning for the victims.

Far-right nationalists march in Bulgaria’s capital

February 17, 2018

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Hundreds of Bulgarian nationalists marched through the country’s capital on Saturday to honor a World War II general known for his anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activities. The government had banned the rally saying it harms the image of the country, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union, but the organizers secured a court order overturning the ban.

The annual “Lukov March,” staged by the far-right Bulgarian National Union, attracted hundreds of dark-clad supporters who walked through downtown Sofia holding torches and Bulgarian flags, and chanting nationalist slogans.

Police guarded the procession from possible attacks of opponents of the event. The marchers praised Gen. Hristo Lukov, who had supported Germany during the Second World War and was killed by an anti-fascist resistance movement on Feb. 13, 1943. The general served as war minister from 1935 to 1938, and led the pro-Nazi Germany Union of Bulgarian Legions from 1932 until 1943.

Organizers deny that Lukov was an anti-Semitic fascist or that they were neo-fascists, but claim that the descendants of the murderers of Lukov were afraid of the event. One of the leaders of the Union, 32-year-old Plamen Dimitrov, said ahead of the march that a “vast majority of young Bulgarians” approve of their activities.

He also said that several nationalist supporters from Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Estonia had arrived to join the event. “They are here today because the survival of all European people is jeopardized,” he told reporters.

Human rights groups, political parties and foreign embassies condemned the Lukov March and criticized its organizers for promoting racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The U.S. Embassy to Bulgaria expressed concern about “the display of intolerance represented by the Lukov March.”

“General Hristo Lukov was a Nazi supporter who promoted hate and injustice, and is not someone deserving of veneration,” the embassy said in a statement.

Bulgarian PM resigning after his party loses presidency

November 13, 2016

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announced his resignation after exit polls showed his party losing badly in Sunday’s runoff presidential election. Surveys by several polling organizations showed Gen. Rumen Radev, 53, a former non-partisan chief of Bulgarian Air Force, taking about 58 percent of the vote.

“We accept the will of the people and we congratulate those who have the support of the majority of the voters,” Borisov said. Tsetska Tsacheva, a 58-year-old lawyer and member of Borisov’s center-right party, had about 36 percent.

Initial results from the official vote count were expected later on Sunday. The new president will face a possible rise in migrants from neighboring Turkey and growing tensions between Russia and the West.

In the first round of voting, Radev surprisingly finished first with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Tsacheva with 22 percent. Bulgaria, which joined the European Union a decade ago, remains the poorest member of the 28-nation bloc. Its 7.2 million people are very much divided in its loyalties.

Bulgaria belongs to NATO and the EU, but many Bulgarians still feel a cultural and historical affinity with Russia, and the country’s heavily dependence on Russian energy supplies leaves it vulnerable to political pressure by the Kremlin.

Borisov, whose party has triumphed in all national elections in the last decade, has said he will resign if Tsacheva loses the runoff, opening the way to an early parliamentary election. Halfway into its four-year term, Borisov’s coalition government has managed to restore political stability after months of anti-corruption protests, but its popularity has faded due to the slow pace of reforms to eliminate graft and overhaul the judicial system.

A political rookie, Radev has attracted many Bulgarians who are fed up with corrupt politicians. The former NATO fighter pilot who once studied at the U.S. Air War College in Alabama, has pledged to maintain Bulgaria’s place in NATO but also says “being pro-European does not mean being anti-Russian.”

Tsacheva, seeking to become Bulgaria’s first female president, was expected to continue her party’s pro-Europe foreign policy. She has tried to rally other right-wing parties behind her, urging them not to allow “Bulgaria to return to the dark past” of being under Russia’s thumb.

Economy, Russia top issues as Bulgarians pick new president

November 13, 2016

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarians are choosing their new president in a hotly contested runoff Sunday that may also determine the fate of the country’s center-right government. The new president will face a possible rise in migrants from neighboring Turkey and growing tensions between Russia and the West.

The choice is between Gen. Rumen Radev, 53, a former non-partisan chief of Bulgarian Air Force, backed by the opposition Socialist party, and the speaker of Parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, a 58-year-old lawyer and member of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov’s center-right party.

In the first round of voting, Radev surprisingly came in first with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Tsacheva with 22 percent. Bulgaria, which joined the European Union a decade ago, remains the poorest member of the 28-nation bloc. The Balkan country of 7.2 million people is very much divided in its loyalties. It belongs to NATO and the EU, but many Bulgarians still feel a cultural and historical affinity with Russia, and the country’s heavily dependence on Russian energy supplies leaves it vulnerable to political meddling by the Kremlin.

Borisov, whose party has trumped in all national elections in the last decade, says he will resign if Tsacheva loses the runoff, opening the way to an early parliamentary election. Halfway into its four-year term, Borisov’s coalition government has managed to restore political stability after months of anti-corruption protests, but its popularity has faded due to the slow pace of reforms to eliminate graft and overhaul the judicial system.

A political rookie, Radev has attracted many Bulgarians who are fed up with corrupt politicians. The former NATO fighter pilot who once studied at the U.S. Air War College in Alabama has pledged to maintain Bulgaria’s place in NATO but also says “being pro-European does not mean being anti-Russian.”

Tsacheva, seeking to become Bulgaria’s first female president, is expected to continue her party’s pro-Europe foreign policy. She has tried to rally other right-wing parties behind her, urging them not to allow “Bulgaria to return to the dark past” of being under Russia’s thumb.

Bulgarian presidential runoff a test of center-right govt

November 11, 2016

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) —  Bulgarians vote Sunday to choose their new president in a contested runoff that has become a referendum on the fate of the country’s center-right government. Here is a look at the vote and the issues:

WHERE IN THE WORLD?

Bulgaria is a nation of 7.2 million in southeastern Europe, bordered by Romania, Turkey, Serbia, Greece and Macedonia. It’s one of the poorest members of the 28-nation European Union and joined NATO in 2004. Still many in this Black Sea nation still share deep historical and cultural ties with Moscow and the energy-strapped country is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies.

WHO IS RUNNING?

In a surprise in the first round of voting, Gen. Rumen Radev, 53, a former non-partisan chief of Bulgarian Air Force came in first with 25 percent of the vote. He was followed by the speaker of Parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, a 58-year-old lawyer and member of Prime Minister Borisov’s center-right party with 22 percent. For the first time, voting is compulsory for Bulgaria’s 6.8 million voters.

WHAT ARE THE STAKES?

Borisov, whose party has trumped in all national elections in the last decade, says he will resign if Tsacheva loses the runoff, opening the way to an early parliamentary election. The coalition government’s popularity has faded due to the slow pace of reforms to eliminate graft and overhaul the judicial system

WHAT DOES RADEV WANT?

Radev, a former NATO fighter pilot who is a rookie in politics, has attracted many Bulgarians who are fed up with politicians they see as corrupt and distanced from the people. He has pledged to comply with Bulgaria’s European obligations, if he is elected. But he also says “being pro-European does not mean being anti-Russian” and insists that sanctions on Moscow need to be lifted.

WHAT DOES TSACHEVA PROMISE TO DO?

If she becomes Bulgaria’s first female president, Tsacheva is expected to continue her party’s pro-Europe foreign policy. But unlike her party leader, Tsacheva is not very charismatic. She has tried to rally other right-wing parties behind her, urging them not to allow “Bulgaria to return to the dark past” of being under Russia’s thumb.

WHY IT MATTERS

The new Bulgarian president will face a possible rise in migrant inflows from neighboring Turkey and growing tensions between Russia and the West, but the post carried little real authority. A Radev victory, however, could trigger political instability and produce an early parliamentary election — the country’s third in five years.

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