Macedonian Journalist Boasts of 'Destroying Bulgarian Monument'
A Macedonian journalist has vandalized a Bulgarian memorial plaque by smashing it into pieces it with a hammer, sparking outrage among some Bulgarian politicians, media, and historians.
The development seems to have occurred in the early afternoon of Thursday, September 22 - the day Buglaria celebrates its independence.
The man claims the plaque was placed "illegally" on the summit, unlike the ones commemorating the participation of Greek and Serbian troops and an older one of Bulgaria approved by the Macedonian government.
His words cannot be independently verified, as some Macedonian and Bulgarian media claimed earlier that the plaque had been removed prior to the arrival of a Serbian delegation that had arrived a few days earlier to pay homage to the Serbian troops who perished on the summit.
Kaimakchalan, a peak serving as a border between Greece and Macedonia, is known for a historic battle between Bulgarian and Serbian troops in the First World War in which some 8500 Bulgarian and Serbian soldiers are estimated to have died.
Bulgarian troops lost, but some historians in the country have described the battle as an act of unconditional bravery. A memorial plaque was put up earlier this year by a group of soldiers on their own initiative, purportedly without Macedonia's approval. Skopje had not undertaken any official reaction about the monument before the moment of destruction.
Two days before the incident, an homage to the fallen soldiers was held on Kaimakchalan, with Chief of Defense Gen Konstanin Popov and a parliamentary delegation attending.
Milenko Nedelkovski, 59, has posted several pictures on Facebook showing his actions.
One of them reads:
"Kaimakchalan, today September 22, 2016, between 13:00 and 14:30. Mission successfully accomplished. The concrete plaque unlawfully placed by a group of Bulgarian criminals has been completely destroyed and turned into dust."
Another post, dated a day later (September 23), says that "the legally and long ago placed Bulgarian monument/obelisk stays with its flowers and wreaths (in the background [of the photo]. There is also a Greek (on the Greek side) and a Serbian monument, legally approved and placed."
In another Facebook post, he has offered the tool used to destroy the plaque "for sale" by putting on a picture of it a price tag, the price itself being in the Bulgaria, currency, the lev (BGN). Offensive comments about Bulgarians, whom he refers to as "Tatars", follow suit, opening the floodgates of angry comments and threats from Bulgarian social media users.
Nedelkovski is known as a staunch supporter of VMRO-DPMNE party, which has dominated Macedonian politics since the mid-2000s, and of its leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
He is also known for acts of hate speech on numerous issues, having triggered warnings from an OSCE mission (in March 2015) and from the Helskini Committee-run anti-hate speech platform which urged criminal proceedings against him in April of this year for his comments on other journalists, civic activitsts, or minority groups.
In 2008, he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for issuing fake US visas to 22 Macedonian nationals. However, the ruling was later changed to a suspended sentence.
Infomax, a supposedly pro-government news website, has hailed him [MK] as a "patriot" who acts "not [just] on the keyboard".
In Bulgaria, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has raised its indignation.
It has submitted to Parliament a question to Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, asking whether Bulgarian authorities will react to the development.
The BSP has lashed out at Nedelkovski for his "rude and unworthy" actions.
The Patriotic Front's presidential candidate, Krasimir Karachanov, has sent a letter to the Macedonian head of state calling on him to condemn the "insult to perished soldiers".
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