Desecrated Bulgarian Memorial Plaque 'Was Illegal', Skopje Says

World » SOUTHEAST EUROPE | September 24, 2016, Saturday // 22:43
Bulgaria: Desecrated Bulgarian Memorial Plaque 'Was Illegal', Skopje Says Photo: Facebook

Macedonia's Foreign Ministry has declared "illegal" a Bulgarian memorial plaque placed on Kaimakchalan peak, at the Macedonian-Greek border, which a journalist from Skopje claims to have demolished.

In a statement [MK], the institution notes that it expects of Bulgaria to respect internationally recognized procedures used to place memorials on foreign territory.

The plaque was set on the peak by a group of volunteers in May. Since then, Skopje had not produced any official response to warn Sofia it was illegal.

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.

Skopje has also said it expects Bulgarian institutions to "discourage all actors who illegally place landmarks on the territory of another country and and which could be the target of acts of violence or trigger negative feelings among citizens".

The statement is dated September 23 - the day when news about the destruction of the plaque was widely communicated to the Bulgarian public.

A day later, on September 24, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said he had been assured by his Macedonian counterpart that the country would respond to the development.

Macedonia "cherishes good relations with all of its neighbors", while Bulgaria is "a friendly country with which [Macedonia has] true cooperation in a number of areas," according to the Foreign Ministry

The statement urges joint promotion of "successful models of reconciliation and commemoration that exist in Europe, opposed to the unilateral setting of landmarks or celebrations in a neighboring country."

Skopje's announcement comes a week after a commemorative ceremony staged by the Serbian delegation on Kaimakchalan, on September 16.

Some Bulgarian participants in the September 22 homage ceremony, done by an official delegation, citing local sources, say the memorial plaque was probably removed prior to the arrival of the Serbian delegation, and not through the actions of Nedevski and his group.

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Tags: macedonia, Milenko Nedelkovski, Kaimakchalan, Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria
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