Sofia Braces for Rallies as Security Council Convenes over Clashes

Domestic | October 1, 2011, Saturday // 10:13|  views

"The state institutions will be united, we will be sufficiently firm in our reaction to radical, extremist attitudes," Bulgarian President, Georgi Parvanov vowed Monday with respect to the possible provocations of ethnic clashes. Photo by BGNES

Bulgarian President, Georgi Parvanov, is calling an emergency meeting of the Consultative National Security Council, KSNS, over escalating ethnic tensions in the country.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 2 pm Saturday at the presidential building and will be titled: "Current problems in internal security – emergency measures to guarantee law and order in the country and prevent and counter ethnic tensions."

Reports are to be prepared by Deputy Interior Minister, Veselin Vuchkov, who is temporarily in charge of the Ministry since Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, is on leave over being the Head of the Election Headquarters of his ruling, center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, party and by the Head Secretary of the Interior, Chief Commissar, Kalin Georgiev.

Under Bulgaria's legislation, members of KSNS include the Speaker of the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Defense, of the Interior, and of Finances, the Director of the State Agency for National Security, DANS, the Army Chief of Staff, and the chairs of all parliamentary groups.

Chief Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, has been invited to the meeting as well. Velchev ordered Tuesday all his subordinates across the country to treat cases of ethnic hate as a priority, and police to make timely arrests.

Tensions in Bulgaria were sparked by the September 23 murder of Bulgarian youngster, Angel Petrov, 19, who was deliberately run over by a minivan, driven, according to witnesses, by one of the relatives of notorious Roam boss from Katunitsa, Kiril Rashkov AKA Tsar Kiro. The murder led to massive protests of the ethnic Bulgarians in the village, where Tsar Kiro's mansions are located. They culminated Saturday night into the burning of Rashkov's properties by football hooligans from Plovdiv, which is near to Katunitsa, and by football club fans from the capital Sofia and the southern city of Stara Zagora.

From Monday to Thursday night, protests followed in many major Bulgarian cities, including the capital Sofia. Nearly 350 people in total were arrested by the police after the two nights of rallies that involved what has been perceived as ethnic hatred.

Bulgarian authorities have frozen Rashkov's assets and property while he is investigated on tax evasion charges, the revenue agency has confirmed. Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Kalin Georgiev told the morning broadcast of Nova TV channel Wednesday that Rashkov, AKA Tsar Kiro, has been arrested. On Friday the Regional Court in the town of Asenovgrad decided to keep Rashkov behind bars.

Meanwhile, Sofia is bracing Saturday for two rallies, a protest march, and a symbolic distribution of flowers in support of people from Katunitsa. In contrast to the rallies from the week, all events are scheduled to occur during the day.

The far-right, nationalist VMRO party is calling all its followers, members, and supporters to a meeting in front of the building of the Parliament, which will begin at 10:30 am and end at 2 pm.

The Bulgarian Peoples' Union is planning a march which starts at 2 pm from the National Palace of Culture and will go through downtown Sofia – from the central Vitosha boulevard to the Parliament and back.

The other far-right, nationalist formation – the parliamentary represented Ataka is organizing a meeting on the square in front of the building of the Central Bank in Sofia. The meeting is to be held between 11 am and 7 pm, and will be attended by party followers from all over the country, which will be bused to Sofia.

The organizers of the first ever Roma Pride parade, which is also planned for October 1 – the Bulgarian Roma NGO, Center for Inter-ethnic Dialogue and Tolerance "Amalipe" and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee have announced earlier during the week they are cancelling the parade over fears of attacks on participants.

Instead, Roma children and Roma college students will distribute at key junctions in the capital Sofia their drawings and essays they have written, titled "I Am Proud to Be Bulgarian and Roma. Similar events will be held in a number of communities across Bulgaria where Roma will present their culture and traditions.

There are several other protests organized through the social network Facebook, but there are no official permits to hold them.

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