Sunday, 19 June 2016

Focus on Bulgaria

Russia-Trained Civil Militias Along Bulgaria's Borders Are ‘Ready for War With Refugees’

15 June, 2016

At least 800 people are involved in organized militias that hunt refugees along the borders of Bulgaria. According to their leader, they receive free training from Russia.

An investigation by German public television channel ZDF aired on June 8 found that at least half of these men have done stints in the Bulgarian military. They wear masks and military camouflage, and most carry knives. Some, however, have guns as well.

The idea of ​​civil patrols in Bulgaria is nothing new. But the practice has re-emerged as the number of refugees from Syria entering the country increased in 2013 and 2014.

By the end of 2013, an estimated 15,000 Syrian refugees had entered Bulgaria illegally, seeking safety. However, the small EU country, awash with its own political and economic instability, has not been able to cope with the influx of asylum-seekers. In an effort to stem the arrival of new refugees, the Bulgarian government authorized the construction of a 30-kilometre barbed wire fence running along the border with Turkey. Tension between refugees suffering from poverty and unemployment and local communities have spiked.

These civil patrols are a consequence of the inadequate response to the problem by authorities and then government of Plamen Oresharski. First they cropped up in Sofia, the capital, and since 2015 there have been a number of patrols on the Bulgarian-Turkish border that had developed into de-facto paramilitary organizations.

At first, these “patrols” did not carry weapons openly. They become more popular and more militarized with the establishment of several refugee centers in and around Sofia. These include the main center in Ovcha KupelVoenna Rampa andVrazhdebna, which are administered by the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees. An unknown number of migrants also occupy apartments in central areas of the capital.

Migrants have received mainly residency documents and shelter for them and their families, but Nationalist circles in Bulgaria began leveraging the increasing numbers of refugees for local political purposes and to increase their visibility among Bulgarian citizens. Boyan Rasate, for example, the leader of Bulgarian National Union – New Democracy (BNU-ND), a National Socialist political party based in Sofia, leads one of these civil patrols, claiming that he's doing so in order to be “patriotic and to protect Bulgarian values”.

During the last three years, the Syrians and other refugees have continued to suffer an increasing number of attacks in Bulgaria's capital. On December 2, 2013 two Syrian refugees have been assaulted by a group of 20 men armed with knives and chains. The two victims, aged 27 and 35, suffered a broken nose and knife injures to the head.

On November 9, 2013, a 28-year-old Bulgarian man of Turkish descent was beatenafter being mistaken for an immigrant. Other xenophobic attacks include the stabbing of an 18-year-old Malian boy and a 17-year-old Syrian national between November and December 2013.

At the end of 2013, human rights group Amnesty International expressed alarm at the increase in xenophobic hate crimes against immigrants in Bulgaria and the anti-immigrant protests being organized by far-right groups. Quoted in an Amnesty statement on 12 November 2013, spokeswoman Barbora Cernusakova said that “There is an alarming and dangerous rise in xenophobic feeling in Bulgaria and the onus is on the authorities to prevent it, but instead many recent government statements risk inflaming the situation.”

Pushback and unauthorized border patrols

According to Bulgarian police data, 1,500 people are stopped every month from crossing the borders from Turkey and Greece. Between end of May and the beginning in June 2016 several reports have appeared about groups of people who managed to pass from Greece to Bulgaria. The news agency Novinite reported that 53 migrants were quickly sent back to Greece by the Bulgarian authorities. Another group of 34 were caught in a freight train on the route from Greece to Bulgaria. Another Novinite report claims that one day, in the space of 24 hours, another 215 migrants were prevented from entering Bulgaria: 62 tried to cross the border between Greece and Bulgaria at Novo Selo, 155 tried to enter from the border with Turkey. As a result of these incidents, the Bulgarian authorities deployed army units on the border with Greece.

As news about refugees became more frequent “civil patrols” began to appear on the border with Turkey. Legally, they do not have the right to make arrests, but they perform them anyway. The patrols have been reported, for instance, to have “captured”several Afghan nationals, and in February 2016 Dinko Valev, a 29-year old from the small town of Yambol, was praised in Bulgarian media as a “superhero” for catching a group of Syrian refugees “with his bare hands.” Valev boasted on national television of patrolling the Turkish border to “hunt” migrants, and has since started a group of his own.

While the activities of the “patrols” have sparked controversy in Bulgaria, the authorities and government led by centre-right political party GERB and the Prime Minister Boyko Borissov have remained silent. In general, the Bulgarian media remain silent too. News reports mention the “civil patrols” in Sofia, but not those along the border with Turkey. One of the few reactions to the ZDF report has been from the news website Mediapool, which summarized the report's content and discussed with the development of these squads under the headline “Russian-trained refugees hunters in Bulgaria”. Another reaction came from the news, which also focused on the training provided by Russia. 

Pro-Russian media like Budna era referred not to refugees but to “invaders”.
As ZDF reported, the civil patrols are increasing in size and continue to arm themselves with heavier weaponry. Some of their members and leaders are also reported to be former Russian soldiers.

The leading nationalist faction that has deployed patrols on the border with Turkey is Voenen sayuz – BNO Shipka (“Military union – BNO Shipka”). They maintain a Facebook page and a Facebook group, both or which currently have more than 4,000 members. In these fora they discuss actions against refugees and migrants. On June 6, Russian channel produced a video about activities.
In the ZDF video, a the patrol member says, “If the agreement with Turkey fails, we are ready for war with the refugees.”

What this means, exactly, is unclear, and it is also unclear whether the authorities will respond appropriately, as so far the Bulgarian government has failed to publicly address the issue of the civil patrols.



Bulgaria opposed the creation of a unified NATO fleet in the Black Sea. Such a proposal was previously made by Turkey and Romania. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said that his country does not intend to resist anyone in the region.

Against Russophobia

The joint NATO fleet in the Black Sea will be directed against Russia. It is drawing Bulgaria into the anti-Russian project, which the country's leadership is not satisfied with. In the Orthodox Slavic Bulgaria, strong pro-Russian sentiments still persist. Previous anti-Russian gestures, including the refusal to participate in the "South Stream", brought nothing to Sofia.


The issue of strengthening NATO's military presence in the Black Sea will be raised at the Alliance's summit in Warsaw on 8th-9th July 2016. Most likely the US will be able to break the resistance of the Bulgarians. Today, Bulgaria can afford to oppose this initiative, as long as it does not come from the US, but may change its position if so requested by Washington


Viktor Stoilov

Bulgaria is a country in Southeastern Europe, located in the heart of the Balkan peninsula, with a territory of 111 000 km2. NATO member since 2004, and EU member since 2007.

Bulgaria is a country with a key geostrategic location. It’s the territory between Europe and Asia. These territories have always been extremely important, and the Great Powers have always wanted to control or influence them. After the Second World War, Bulgaria became part of the Warsaw Pact and was in the geopolitical sphere of the Soviet Union, however in the 1980s the Soviet Union started its deconstruction, and in 1989 Bulgaria was transferred to the US geopolitical sphere with a so-called “revolution” which was nothing but changing the owner of the country. From then democracy kicked it. By democracy the Bulgarian post-communist elites thought one thing – legally robbing everything which was built since the end of WWII.

Having all of this in mind Bulgaria is not a subject but an object of the geopolitics. It’s even hard to say that Bulgaria is a country – it’s a territory with colonial administration currently employed by the US. However, as some wise people have said “the best slave is the one that thinks he’s a free person”, the same could easily be said for the Bulgarian population. After the “changes” in 1989, the Bulgarian population thought they’re finally free and will prosper. Just the opposite, Bulgaria is one of the fastest declining countries without an open war in the country, in every possible aspect.

The clash between the big interests

As mentioned, the Bulgarian lands are of big importance. In the past 26 years, the USA and Russia have been clashing for what’s going to happen in Bulgaria. While in the 90s and early 2000s, it seemed like both sides had agreed on the following deal – the US politically controls the country, but Russia can still have its energy projects in the country.

Step by step, year by year, the USA was gaining more and more the full control of the country. First, without even being a member of NATO, Bulgaria allowed the USA to use its airbases to bomb neighboring Yugoslavia.

One of the conditions which the Bulgarian government had to sign when joining NATO was to drastically reduce the army. This move was designed to eliminate the chances of having any kind of sovereignty guaranteed by a strong army. From 108,000 soldiers in 1989, Bulgaria currently has less than 26,000. The situation with the military equipment is even worse.

Another political victory for the US was the condition to close two well-working nuclear reactors of the Bulgarian nuclear plant “Kozloduy” which limited the energy potential of the country.

The next clashes were for the project for a second nuclear plant in Bulgaria which the Russians wanted to build. However nobody in the West has any interest in having this nuclear plant and after years of debates and drama, currently the project is frozen.

But this wasn’t the biggest clash…

The South Stream Project

The South Stream Project was a project to deliver gas from Russia to the EU through Bulgaria by bypassing Ukraine which has always caused problems for the delivery of gas. The project was going to create thousands of workplaces in Bulgaria and the country was going to have hundreds of millions of profit, annually.

Everything sounds perfect if we forget who’s in charge of the country. The Bulgarian government didn’t even take part in the negotiations for the project. EU delegates were in charge of negotiating for the Bulgarian side and the project was stopped.

As a member of NATO

As a frontline member of NATO, the Bulgarian territories have been continuously used for all kinds of military drills. NATO currently has 4 military bases in Bulgaria and opened a command center in the capital Sofia.

Also, Bulgaria has taken part in almost every military conflict led by the US. Bulgaria has sent armed forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and was one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo.

Current government

The current government is headed by Prime Minister Boiko Borisov and his party GERB. To best describe it, Borisov and his government is the mediator between the US interests and the Bulgarian oligarchs and mafia. The President Rosen Plevneliev is one of biggest lackeys of the US in the country. On the other hand is the so-called patriotic and pro-Russian party “Ataka” with its leader Volen Siderov. If we add all the other parties in the parliament, we’re getting a bad-organized circus with a bitter taste of corruption coming from everywhere.

Internal problems

Bulgaria has been witnessing a steady decline in every possible sphere, except probably the corruption. More than 3 million Bulgarians left the country in an as they call it “survival measure” due to inability to find any career opportunity or bright future. Currently, Bulgaria has the oldest population in the world with an average age of 43. The educational system is literally not working and if for some reason there are still students who are doing well, the moment they graduate from high school they go to study and live abroad. The healthcare system is a disaster and big groups of sick people are left without any help. The situation is the same with everything you can think of.

We shouldn’t belittle the ethnical problems which are being sparked by the politicians and some external powers. Bulgaria has several groups of minorities, but the main ones are Turks and gypsies, and another key minority is the Muslim one. All of them have been and could be used in the future as a pretext for an internal conflict which could easily be sparked.

Overall, from a top 30 country in the world in the 1980s, Bulgaria has been turned into a barbaric territory, serving the interests of the USA, with anything but a bright future.

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