Fact Check: Bulgarian Police Did NOT Prevent Bulgarians From Paying Their Respects At Vasil Levski's Monument On Anniversary Of His Death

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  • от: Lead Stories автор
Fact Check: Bulgarian Police Did NOT Prevent Bulgarians From Paying Their Respects At Vasil Levski's Monument On Anniversary Of His Death Free Access

Were the Bulgarian police obstructing people from paying homage at the monument of Vasil Levski, the Bulgarian national hero and Apostle of Freedom, throughout the day on the anniversary of his death? No, that's not true: Admission to the monument is unrestricted for citizens throughout the anniversary celebration day. However, temporary restrictions were imposed during the official ceremony on February 19, 2024, owing to the attendance of officials and high-ranking politicians. Video footage depicts the implementation of these measures, including the use of fences to separate spectators from ceremony participants.

The claim appeared in a video on TikTok on February 20, 2024, that's no longer available but archived here by @atanasstefanof, the account of Bulgarian politician and pro-Russian activist Atanas Stefanov, that's also no longer available.

The text (translated from Bulgarian to English by Lead Stories staff) read:

Subdeacon Atanas Stefanov: The Bulgarian police, an organized criminal group guarding the Satanists with fences in front of the monument of the Apostle of Freedom Vasil Levski, does not allow the Bulgarian people to pay their respects!!!

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2024-02-22 at 7.51.04.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Feb 22 07:11:34 2024 UTC)

Atanas Stefanov (archived here), portraying himself as a churchman holding the modest ecclesiastical title of subdeacon (archived here), has garnered attention for his assertive solo endeavors against the government (archived here). He is widely recognized as a pro-Russian activist (archived here) and has previously run for (archived here) a seat in the Bulgarian parliament as a member of the MIR party (archived here). In an incident in 2019, assuming the guise of a journalist rather than a church envoy, he made headlines by trying to present an icon to Putin and disrupting a press conference (archived here).

Citizens were not barred from accessing the monument, and numerous people throughout the day took the chance to lay flowers and pay their respects, a fact documented by the Bulgarian media (archived here). However, during the official ceremony (archived here) at the Vasil Levski monument area on February 19, 2024, attended by dignitaries and high-ranking politicians, public access to the monument was temporarily restricted.

According to the Bulgarian media (archived here), the police presence at the event aimed to ensure public safety and control access through several checkpoints, where people were screened with metal detectors. Footage of the ceremony can be seen here (archived here), and footage of citizens accessing the monument area after the ceremony has ended can be seen here (archived here).

Stefanov's provocative conduct during the ceremony is not an isolated incident, as his previous displays of similar behavior have been shared on his social media channels. In June 2023, he publicly displayed aggressive behavior (archived here) towards former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, and a month later, he acted in a similar way (archived here) towards the convoy of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

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