Bulgarian Nationalists Protest Against NATO Bases, Want Government Out

Bulgarian Nationalists Protest Against NATO Bases, Want Government Out
Protesters scuffle with police during an anti-government demonstration in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Sept. 21, 2023. (Stoyan Nenov/Reuters)

SOFIA—Bulgarian police on Thursday scuffled with supporters of the nationalist Vazrazhdane (Revival) party protesting against the policies of the pro-Western government, calling for the government to resign and for the closure of NATO military bases.

Hundreds of protesters opposing the EU member's support for Ukraine in its war with Russia gathered in front of the parliament building, waving Bulgarian and Russian national flags, blowing whistles and demanding an early election in the country which has gone through five polls in the past two years.

Many shouted "Resignation," while fully equipped riot police protected the government buildings, including the defense ministry at which some protesters threw eggs.

Bulgaria, which has sent arms to Ukraine, lifted its ban on Ukrainian grains last week.

"Bulgarians do not want to participate in the war between Russia and Ukraine, we want to be a neutral country," said Neli Tyulekova, 60, a businesswoman. She said that Bulgarians opposed sending arms to Ukraine, "which incites the war further."

Some protesters carried placards reading "American bases out! Bulgaria is a zone of peace," referring to the opening of a new military base in the NATO member.

"The last instruction that came from the masters of Bulgaria, from the U.S., is for Bulgaria to make a new military base," Kostadin Kostadinov, the leader of the Revival, told the crowd. "NATO Out!"

The protesters ended their walk in front of a monument to the Soviet army, and clashed with police trying to stop them from getting close to the monument that has been put under scaffolding for security reasons.

The government has decided to remove the monument.

Neli Balabanska, 51, an electric engineer, said she hoped the protests will force the government out.

Separately on Thursday, Bulgaria expelled one Russian and two Belarusian nationals and barred them from entering Bulgaria in the next five years by order of the State Agency for National Security (SANS), local media reported.

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