Controversy over EU, NATO Flags Desecration at Russophile Gathering
The socialist-backed presidential candidate, Maj Gen Rumen Radev, attended on Sunday a gathering of the "friends of Russia" and addressed the crowd.
Radev spoke of the "hard time in relations between EU and Russia" and argued Bulgaria's role would be to cooperate in overcoming the problem.
"It is high time for our relations with Russia to be placed on an open, clear and pragmatic footing, devoid of any ideology," he added.
In a similar fashion to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, he has called for steps to avoid any escalation between NATO and Russia.
"It must be clear. Bulgaria is a loyal member of NATO and the EU, but our foreign policy should be developed in Sofia, taking our national interest into account, and to be defended abroad in the alliances we are members of, and not the other way around," he told a cheering crowd.
Co-organized by the National Russophile Movement, the event, held annually by Koprinka dam and attracting hundreds who sympathize with Russia, was marked by an incident with EU and NATO flags.
Private NOVA TV station on Monday reported that participants had desecrated two flags, one of the EU and one of NATO, thrusting them with a flag of Bulgaria, throwing them to the ground and waving another one of Russia. As music resounded from the stage, some people started to tread and even dance on the flags.
Their move was a protest against the ongoing EU sanctions on Russia imposed over its move to incorporate the Crimean peninsula following a "local referendum". Bulgaria also backs the measures.
Footage from Press TV Kazanlak, a local channel, shows [BG audio] only several people attended the with Russophile movement head Nikolay Malinov subsequently calling on police to take away people who "misbehaved".
"This is an organization which emerged spontaneously and which wants to show that the Russophile and Slavic idea in Bulgaria can not be usurped either by a party or rubber-stamp organizations such as the National Russophile Movement," a participant in the desecrating act is heard telling Press TV.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on Monday issued a statement to condemn the developments at Koprinka and distanced itself from the people who "desecrated European symbols" and the flag of NATO.
"Such actions are a provocation in breach of the idea of such a gathering for friendship with Russia."
The BSP has traditionally advocated closer ties with Russia, arguing Sofia should seek ways to defend its special relationship with Russia against the backdrop of EU sanctions.
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