Self-Appointed Defenders Of “Fortress Europe”: Analyzing Bulgarian Border Patrols

The peak of the migration crisis in Europe might be over, but it has provided lasting excuses for paramilitary proto-militias to continue to mobilize support in Bulgaria. Via their “defense of the European fortress” from a new “Islamic conquest,” they provide a platform for both overt and covert international cooperation between leading figures of the European radical far-right and local volunteers, who seek to acquire specialized training from Russian ex-special ops instructors. Two self-styled proto-militias called Shipka Bulgarian National Movement (Българско Народно Опълчение “Шипка”, usually transliterated as BNO Shipka in English) and Vasil Levski Military Union initially gained their five minutes of infamy at the peak of the migration crisis in Europe several years ago. These groups have performed so-called “civic arrests” of migrants independently of the Bulgarian authorities and security forces. And while they seem to be two separate entities that united for a common cause, their public appearances and activities strongly suggest in practice they are a joint entity under the predominant guidance of BNO Shipka’s leadership, with an overlapping membership base.
Although these groups have received only sporadic press coverage, their case deserves more detailed attention. That’s because they function not only as a militia, but also as a semi-covert instrument of sweeping anti-EU and anti-NATO propaganda, flying under the radar of wider public attention. (…) It is helpful to take a closer look at their core ideas. Their official platform and key creed documents make it obvious that they represent a chaotic mix of ideas directly challenging the constitutional order of Bulgaria and are heavily influenced by simplistic notions about direct democracy. In addition, their so-called “platform” is supplemented with documents regarding the “genocide of Bulgarian people” and “its rights and obligations to revolt against the illegitimate government.” These are coupled with open appeals for a “ban on political parties” and strict punishment of “the greedy and useless political party elites.” (…) There is a second cluster of ideas that mainly appears as links to websites and videos dedicated to “alternative news”, sensationalism, and signaling imminent threats to Bulgaria and the “European civilization.” These “warnings” inevitably feature “the Islamic invasion of Europe,” “radicalized Muslims,” “criminal and radicalized Roma,” “migrant sexual violence,“ “terror against Bulgarians in Ukraine,” “Ukrainian terror in Donbass,”, “the scourge of liberal NGO’s,” and so on. Non-original conspiracy theories reposted, translated into Bulgarian, and endorsed by the organization deserve separate attention. These feature a plethora of conspiratorial themes, with some of the most egregious examples including: “9/11 was an Israeli/American inside job,” “Russia’s struggle against Zionism and liberalism,” “Holocaust did not happen,” and “the US as a fascist enforcer of the New World Order.” This second layer of ideas bears close resemblance to pro-Russian propaganda, not only because of the timing of the publishing (i.e. the peak of reposts at the height and the aftermath of the Russian-backed campaign in Eastern Ukraine) and the direct reposting of unedited Russian language material without translation, but also due to its predominant content. Topic coverage ranges from Western-inspired subversive plots and anti-Semitic conspiracies in Russia (i.e. the workings of a so-called “fifth column”) and the “near abroad” (i.e. ex-Soviet republics), to virulent anti-EU, anti-NATO and anti-democratic alarmist reports about dangers looming.

via bellingcat: Self-Appointed Defenders Of “Fortress Europe”: Analyzing Bulgarian Border Patrols

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