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Bulgarians hit streets against US-led NATO, urge Sofia's neutrality in Ukraine war

Bulgarians protest against the US-led NATO in the capital Sofia on April 23, 2023. (Ruptly video screengrab)

Thousands of Bulgarians have poured into the streets against the US-led NATO military alliance in the capital Sofia, calling on their government to adopt a neutral position on Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

The angry demonstrators hit the streets on Sunday carrying national flags and signs that read, “Bulgaria is not NATO, NATO is not Bulgaria” and “I want peace”.

Anti-war activists in the Balkan nation also collected signatures for a referendum called ‘Bulgaria for Peace and Sovereignty’ in a bid to prevent Sofia’s potential involvement in the Ukraine war that completed a year recently. 

“If Bulgaria enters as a party to this conflict, some of those killed will be Bulgarians. This is something we do not want, something we will not allow," activist Grigor Saryiski was quoted as saying. 

Bulgaria is a member of the European Union and the US-led NATO military alliance, but it also has close historical and cultural ties with Russia.

Over the past two years, it has been ruled by technocratic caretaker governments, fueling political instability in the East European country. 

Bulgaria has refused to toe the line of other NATO members in getting fully involved in the Ukraine war.

Under former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov's government, however, a secret supply of Bulgarian-made ammunition made its way to Ukraine as early as April 2022, according to reports. 

Snap parliamentary elections were held in Bulgaria earlier this month, with analysts predicting the results could influence Bulgaria’s position on the war.

The central-right bloc GERB-SDS, led by former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, won the elections, with the centrist bloc comprising 'We Continue the Change' (PP) and Democratic Bulgaria (DB) taking the second place.

Both parties share pro-European, pro-NATO positions and strong support for Ukraine.

The far-right Revival party, which ended up in third place in the polls, is seen as sympathetic to Russia.

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