Fracas after Bulgaria 'Far-Right' Leader Forced Out of Building
A scuffle broke out late on Sunday as "far-right" leader Volen Siderov broke into the National Academy for Theater and Film Arts (NATFA) building in downtown Sofia and was taken out by dozens of police officers.
Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova, the ministry's chief secretary Georgi Kostov, and Sofia police chief Mladen Marinov rushed to the scene as the events were unfolding, but that did not prevent the fracas that followed.
This was yet another "offensive" by Siderov and members and supporters of his Ataka party in the area, after an episode in front of a liquor store followed by his first attempt at storming the NATFA building.
After Siderov entered the academy, dozens of students and people from the cinema and theater world arrived to help
Initially, Siderov told police and reporters he was looking for a man who had hit him.
But Hristo Mutafchiev, who presides over the actors' union in Bulgaria, told private national bTV station he had gone to NATFA to find someone who had not allowed him to put election campaign posters on the building's walls.
First footage showed Siderov being escorted by police which had cordoned him off, apparently preventing him from the force of mob law as tens of people were trying to reach him, shouting.
Video aired by private national NOVA TV station clearly shows a man, allowed into the immediate area around Siderov, punch Siderov's face.
TV anchors commenting the developments on air described the man as a police officer who had failed to contain his anger at Siderov - a comment which reverberated on social media, with some users justifying or praising the alleged officer for his actions and Ataka supporters suggesting "police violence".
However, other reports suggest the attacker was a provocateur.
Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova later told NOVA that the man's identity had been established and he was not a policeman, but no name would be disclosed for the moment.
Siderov, along with his partner Denitsa Gadzheva, were taken away in a police car to prevent further escalation.
Focus News Agency quotes Kostov as saying the violent episode was caused by "the love the nation feels for him".
But Siderov later explained he had been "beaten by Bulgarian police".
NATFA students, professors, theater and film directors are meanwhile planning to stage protests against his actions.
The Ataka leader has often embroiled over the past weeks in minor scuffles or verbal clashes with police.
His Ataka party, which is still described as "far right" by a number of political scientists (and by media outlets), has been facing mounting allegations over the past several years of being a de-facto political arm of the Russian government and serving as a spokesperson for the Kremlin.
Siderov, for his part, does not conceal his sympathy for Moscow and his calls for Bulgaria's withdrawal from NATO and, possibly, the EU.
With support dwindling since Ataka became one of the kingmakers in Parliament in the previous (2013) general election, it polled disastrously in Sunday's local vote whose initial results were announced just hours before the incident occurred.
Ataka took slightly above three percent nationally.
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