The Russian embassy in Sofia announced on Monday evening the start of a fundraising campaign to support the Moscow’s forces fighting in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine.
The embassy claimed in a post on Facebook that it was launching the fundraiser in response to popular demand from Bulgarians.
“Taking into account the numerous inquiries from citizens to the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation to support the military participating in the special operation for the protection of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, there has been a charity foundation established – PROTECTion,” it said.
It added that donations can be accepted through three Russian banks – Promsvyazbank, Sberbank and VTB Bank.
The launch of the fundraising campaign has so far not attracted much reactions from parliamentarians or the outgoing government. “This is shocking. I’ve contacted Meta [the company that owns Facebook] so they can urgently evaluate whether this post violates their rules,” outgoing Minister of e-Government Bozhidar Bozhanov said on Twitter.
The fundraiser was quickly condemned on social media by people who oppose Moscow’s rhetoric.
“So the Russian embassy in Bulgaria is starting a campaign for its so-called special operation. There’s no mistake here. A country which is allowing a campaign to support terrorism should be only be referred to using a lower-case first letter,” writer Radoslav Bimbalov wrote in a post that was widely shared.
Some Facebook users said they have alerted the social media company about the embassy’s campaign.
Russia’s embassy in Sofia is headed by Eleonora Mitrofanova, who has held the post since January 2021. She was previously first deputy minister at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mitrofanova has been accused of meddling in local politics and has crossed swords several times with outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the outset.
After Petkov criticised Mitrofanova’s comments to a Russian TV station that the Bulgarian nation is against anti-Russia rhetoric, Mitrofanova on March 23 described Petkov as “a clerk of some country” who is “unfit” to comment on events.
After Petkov’s government was ousted on June 22, following a quick no-confidence vote in parliament, he said it was “an honour for me to lead a government that was taken down” by oligarch Delyan Peevski, ex-premier Boyko Borissov and Mitrofanova.
Mitrofanova responded by telling Russian news agency RIA Novosti on June 23: “Me being somewhat responsible for the government falling is a convenient explanation – Russia is always framed as the reason for anything bad that’s happening in Bulgaria.”
The relationship between Moscow and Sofia has been tense for the past few years, and there have been several expulsions of Russian diplomats over accusations of espionage.