Wrap-up

site.btaPM Considers Interior Minister's Replacement over Sofia Riots of Football Hooligans, Minister Refuses to Come Down and Gets Support from MRF, GERB

PM Considers Interior Minister's Replacement over Sofia Riots of Football Hooligans, Minister Refuses to Come Down and Gets Support from MRF, GERB
PM Considers Interior Minister's Replacement over Sofia Riots of Football Hooligans, Minister Refuses to Come Down and Gets Support from MRF, GERB
Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov (BTA Photo)

A day after central Sofia was vandalized by riots of football hooligans during a protest against the management of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU), Continue the Change – Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party called for the resignation of Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov and Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov said he would consider his replacement. At a special news conference, Stoyanov made it clear that he would not come down and said he does not understand why he is being asked to resign. Also, he got support from GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). 

The riots took place while the Bulgarian national football team was playing a European qualifier with Hungary to empty stands as per a BFU decision.

GERB leader Boyko Borissov told journalists it is Sport Minister Dimitar Iliev who should resign immediately for fuelling tension for several days, and said what happened was also the fault of newly elected Sofia Mayor Vassil Terziev, who allowed "football hooligans to gather". 

Borissov also demanded the immediate resignation of BFU President Borislav Mihaylov – as did CC-DB. 

CC-DB MP Hristo Ivanov reacted to Borissov's attack against Terziev and said he cannot be held responsible after being mayor for three days, especially after mayors before him were never held accountable for how protests proceeded. Ivanov was adamant that Interior Ministry has the key responsibility.

BSP leader Korneliya Ninova told journalists in Parliament that what happened in Sofia on Thursday "was a war and is unacceptable". She said that the Interior Ministry failed to do its job and her party also demanded the resignation of the interior minister. Ninova said she did not see a reason to demand the resignation of the sports minister.

“An inadequate assessment of the situation”

At a news briefing in the government HQs, Denkov said that he saw "certain inadequacy of the assessment of the situation by the Interior Minister" in Sofia Thursday. "He [Interior Minister] had assured me that he did not expect problems and provocations, he also said so in media appearances," Denkov said. On Friday morning, the Interior Minister told the Prime Minister that "nothing extraordinary happened” at the protest Thursday night.

Denkov said that he would discuss the calls for the replacement of Kalin Stoyanov with Deputy Prime Minister Mariya Gabriel when she returns from a visit abroad.

While he is undecided about sacking Stoyanov, Denkov has already fired Deputy Interior Minister Stoyan Temelakiev. “Last night Kalin Stoyanov was at the cinema, which is alarming because at that time there was a government meeting and he was represented there by his deputy Stoyan Temelakiev. At one point I had to tell Temelakiev to go to the protest,” said Denkov. 

He argued that there apparently is some problem in the coordination and said that he would demand information from the Interior Minister about what exactly happened and then take action. 

Temelakiev is in charge of the Ministry’s operational activity. 

Denkov said that “instead of having a football feast Thursday night, we saw ugly scenes of violence” which he blamed on “the long-serving leadership of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) which has brought to collapse Bulgarian football and left it with no visible prospects”. He also said that “the chaotic actions of the BFU in the organization of the Thursday match turned up the tension even more”. “To that, we have to add the mistakes in the organization, made by the Interior Ministry and the Sofia Regional Directorate of the Interior, which brought together in one place warring football hooligans.”

The Prime Minister thanked all peacefully protesting football fans and the police “who did their job without using violence in this very difficult situation filled with provocations”. 

Police brutality

He went on to slam the use of violence by police. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the scenes in which police were beating up and kicking people who had fallen on the ground or had merely come within their reach.”

He has instructed Interior Ministry Secretary General Zhivko Kotsev to make sure a swift and objective investigation is conducted of the violence used by some police officers. “Their names must become clear and they must receive the due disciplinary punishment, including dismissal,” said Denkov

He has written to UEFA to ask them about their position regarding the events surrounding the Bulgaria-Hungary qualifier. He also wants to hear FIFA’s position.

He said that he has no complaints about the Sport Minister and added that he has no direct responsibility regarding football matches. 

Asked if he believes the leadership of the Sofia Directorate of the Interior should resign, Denkov said that it is a bad idea “to make wholesale accusations”. “It has to be clear who is in charge of the organization [of security during matches] and I believe it is a deputy head of the Sofia Directorate of the interior.”

Asked whether the government should resign, he said that it should be clear who is responsible for planning the event and to make an analysis after that. “It is important to make it clear who trains the police officers, whether they are instructed to use violence, and hold them accountable when violence is used. There are people who are responsible for that and the responsibility is theirs.” 

Stoyanov would not come down

Interior Minister Stoyanov made it clear that he does not intend to resign. “We have witnessed unprecedented aggression in the centre of Sofia,” he said at a news briefing. “Only a timely reaction prevented this from having casualties. I am surprised I am being asked to resign.” 

Stoyanov pointed out that if he resigned, he would be betraying all his colleagues who were at work last night. 

“I do not think a minister should be scapegoated for the long-standing problems in the Bulgarian Football Union,” he added.

According to him, the actions of the police and gendarmerie were reciprocal to the aggression of football hooligans, whose aim he said was “definitely to bloody the protest”. 

The minister stands behind all the officers who last night, at the risk of their lives, prevented "something much more serious".

Sofia Police Chief Lyubomir Nikolov said that more than 30 people at Thursday’s protests had criminal records. The perpetrator of a bus arson has been identified, Nikolov said. A total of six briefs have been opened regarding cases “where it can be said that police officers possibly had physical contact with citizens at the protest”, to use Nikolov’s words. 

The cases would be investigated and information made public in less than a month, said the Interior Ministry. 

… and gets support from MRF 

MRF took Stoyanov’s side. Its floor leader Delyan Peevski said he has known for a long time that CC-DB would seek to have Stoyanov removed – but for a very different reason. "We have information that the Interior Minister was pressured by Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria to work for them during the elections. I hope that he will have the courage to say it and you should start seeking information. That’s why they are asking his resignation,” said Peevski. “I think that the case is very different. I have known for a long time that they will ask for his resignation.” 

/NF/

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By 10:44 on 14.04.2024 Today`s news

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