Bulgarian PM Unimpressed by Explosion at Anti-Govt Newspaper Office

Domestic | February 10, 2011, Thursday // 14:50|  views

Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov ordered swift investigation but was otherwise "unmoved" by the explosion at the Galeria weekly office. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has ordered swift investigation of Thursday's explosion near the office of the Galeria weekly in downtown Sofia, while making it clear he is unperturbed by the incident.

The blast that occurred before the office of the Galeria weekly early Thursday morning did not hurt any people. The Galeria weekly is a controversial newspaper believed to be the mouthpiece of Aleksei Petrov, a former secret agent of the Bulgarian State National Security Agency DANS, who in February 2010 was arrested in a much advertised special police operation "Octopus" but the organized crime charges against him have been downsized ever since.

In January 2011, the Galeria weekly caused "Tapegate", a scandal that shook the Borisov Cabinet, by releasing tapped conversations of senior Bulgarian government officials providing discrediting information regarding the Borisov government. The tapes are believed to have been sneaked out of DANS or the Interior Ministry but their authenticity remains disputed.

Thursday's explosion led the Editor-in-Chief of Galeria, Kristina Patrashkova, to declare that the bomb is intended to intimidate the paper.

"I am at least glad that the bomb was placed professionally so that no people were hurt. At the same time, I am not the least worried by this incident occurring on a day when four EU Commissioners are coming to Bulgaria because it is clear to everyone in Europe that my government inherited a country rife with organized crime and corruption, and that we have done a lot in the past months to tackle them," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov commented regarding the Galeria explosion during a joint briefing with EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli.

Borisov even apologized to the Commissioner for having to comment on "such a topic" in his presence.

The Prime Minister also revealed that as soon as the blast occurred he instructed Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and DANS head Tsvetlin Yovchev to take urgent measures and to arrest those responsible for the bomb. He pointed out his assessment of the work of the two top cops will depend on their performance with respect to the Galeria explosion.

"I told Tsvetanov in the morning – Bulgaria has very important priorities – health, construction, environment – and I am not going to be dealing with some communist secret service stories. I know what these people can do. They have been trained for such things," Borisov said while not specifying exactly which people he meant as perpetrators of the attack.

The PM did hint, however, that the marginal conservative party RZS ("Order, Law, Justice") might be behind the blast. RZS is also believed to have certain connections with Aleksei Petrov, and in January the RZS leader Yane Yanev contributed to the Tapegate by releasing himself several tapes of discrediting conversations of government officials.

The editors of the Galeria weekly declared they were shocked by rumors, suggesting that the attack is a PR trick, masterminded by the journalists themselves.

Meanwhile, the RZS party leader Yane Yanev attacked Borisov by saying the PM is using a "Cosa Nostra" scenario to intimidate everyone into submission.

The exact relations between the RZS party and the Galeria weekly, however, are unclear, and Borisov's hint about the involvement of the RZS party also did not specify whether it sought to target the newspaper or whether he thinks the blast was set up by the people close to the anti-government paper themselves in order to hurt the government's image – a scenario mentioned earlier by MP Krasimir Velchev, head of the Parliamentary Group of the ruling party GERB.

Prime Minister Borisov did say that MP Todor Velikov, a former member of RZS, who now supports Borisov's GERB, and four other MPs expelled from RZS told Borisov on Saturday that they heard conversations in the party about a plot for an explosion. He asked the journalists to go find the MPs in question because if the government approached them, the RZS party would protest that it is harassed by the state.

He also mentioned that when the government recently asked RZS leader Yanev to provide the original tapes of some of the Tapegate conversations, Yanev's jeep containing the tapes was stolen.

"I think that you are serious people, and you will not succumb to such provocations," Borisov told the reporters apparently referring to the recent activities of the RZS party and the Galeria weekly but providing little clarity.

"One day when the perpetrators are found, I believe they will be the same people who beat journalist Ognyan Stefanov a couple of years ago. In 1997, on the day when then Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev was conducting one of his successful anti-mafia operations, these people blow up a person who was a good friend of mine. These people just know when to pick their moments for attacks but their approach is very dumb in this case," Borisov said.

He also mentioned that the government can provide security for the offices of the Galeria weekly only if the paper requests because otherwise its journalists would claim that they are being followed by the state.

Earlier on Thursday, Ivan Kostov, leader of the rightist Blue Coalition and former PM, said that the explosion was orchestrated by people interested in attacking the government, and that the attack was organized by President Georgi Parvanov with the support of Aleksei Petrov and Socialist Party functionary Tsvyatko Tsvetkov, a former Interior Ministry Secretary from the early 1990s.

Interestingly, Volen Siderov, leader of the nationalist party Ataka, an informal coalition partner of Borisov's ruling party GERB, who is locked in an unyielding conflict with Kostov, provided about the same explanation for the explosition going as far as suggesting that it meant the start of a coup 'd'etat attempt by a group of plotters led by President Georgi Parvanov, Aleksei Petrov and RZS leader Yane Yanev.

The representatives of GERB and the other rightist formations have generally described the Galeria weekly office explosion as a "blast against Bulgaria" rather than the newspaper.

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Tags: Galeria, explosion, blast, Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister, DANS, interior ministry, State National Security Agency, RZS, Aleksei Petrov, Todor Velikov, MPs, John Dalli, EU Commissioner for Health, bomb, newspaper


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