Veselin Toshkov / Associated Press – 2006-04-28 08:43:07
Bulgarians Protest US Base Deal
Veselin Toshkov / Associated Press
SOFIA, Bulgaria (April 27, 2006) — Thousands of Bulgarians demonstrated Thursday against a deal to allow US troops to use military facilities in the country.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was expected to arrive in Bulgaria later Thursday for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, is to sign the agreement Friday with her Bulgarian counterpart, Ivailo Kalfin.
Under the deal, seen as part of a broader US military strategy of shifting troops based in Europe farther east, up to 2,500 US troops would be deployed in the Balkan country on a rotational basis.
The rally against the plan was organized by an ultranationalist party called Attack and drew several thousand people to a park a few hundred meters (yards) from the venue for the NATO meeting.
The protesters shouted, “Yankees Go Home,” and waved banners that read, “Condi, ask the Bulgarian people” and “US bases War.”
In a declaration, protesters called on the government to put the issue of to a referendum.
According to the Attack party, 200,000 Bulgarians have signed a petition against the deployment of foreign troops to Bulgarian military bases.
Officials expect the first US troops to arrive at the end of the year or early in 2007.
The agreement would give US troops access to three bases in southern Bulgaria for training and logistical operations. The locations are the Bezmer and the Graf Ignatievo air bases and the Novo Selo training area.
Attack party leader Volen Siderov told the rally that “from Bulgarian airports, US military jets will take off to attack other countries.”
“Bulgaria is preparing to enter a new dirty war, this time against Iran,” Siderov said.
Protester Lyuben Bozhilov said opening Bulgaria’s territory to US troops could make the country a target for terrorists.
Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin recently tried to downplay such fears, saying that weapons of mass destruction would not be deployed to the facilities used by US troops.
“The agreements between the United States and Russia on non-deployment of nuclear weapons in the new NATO member states guarantees that there will be no nuclear weapons in Bulgaria,” Kalfin said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press
Former Western Anti-communist Hero Solzhenitsyn Says NATO Encircling Russia
MOSCOW (Apr 27, 2006) — Former Soviet dissident Aleksander Solzhenitsyn accused the United States and NATO of seeking to encircle Russia and praised President Vladimir Putin for working to restore a strong state.
The reclusive 87-year-old author told the Moscow News newspaper NATO’s ultimate aim is to deprive Russia of its sovereignty, said a full text of the interview posted Thursday on the website edition of the liberal weekly.
“Though it is clear that present-day Russia poses no threat to it, NATO is methodically and persistently building up its military machine – into the east of Europe and surrounding Russia from the south,” Solzhenitsyn said.
“This involves open material and ideological support for ‘colour revolutions’ and the paradoxical forcing of North Atlantic interests on Central Asia,” he said, adding there is “little substantial difference” between the actions of the United States and NATO.
The “colour revolutions” referred to the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine and “Rose Revolution” in Georgia and other recent protests that brought opposition leaders to power in former Soviet republics, enraging Russia over what it saw as western encroachment on its home turf.
By NATO interests in Central Asia, Solzhenitsyn was alluding to the 1,000 mostly US troops stationed at an air base set up in December 2001 at Kyrgyzstan’s main civilian airport near the capital, Bishkek. The force also includes small French and Spanish contingents.
The United States lost its other base in former Soviet Central Asia last year when Uzbekistan expelled US troops following western criticism of a crackdown on demonstrators.
“All this leaves no doubt that they are preparing to completely encircle Russia and deprive it of its sovereignty,” Solzhenitsyn said.
Solzhenitsyn, known for his rightist nationalist views, lashed out at the pro-western government in Ukraine for its drive to obtain NATO membership and said Russia will “never betray in any way the multimillion Russian population in Ukraine and renounce our unity with it.”
The author accused deposed Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev of capitulating to the West and Russia’s first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, of pursuing the same policy, as well as presiding over the massive theft of state resources and a descent into chaos.
He said Putin, a former KGB career intelligence officer now in his second presidential term, is making efforts to restore Russia’s shattered statehood.
“Foreign policy, considering our current situation and possibilities, is being conducted sensibly and ever more forward-thinking,” Solzhenitsyn said.
“But owing to the heavy burden left by his predecessors, an awful, awful lot in Russia has yet to be lifted up from decline. The overall state of people’s lives remains hard and chaotic,” he said.
Solzhenitsyn spent a decade in a labour camp and documented life in the camps in his best-known works, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and the Gulag Archipelago trilogy.
He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1970 and was expelled from the Soviet Union four years later. He lived in Vermont until his 1994 return to Russia, three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He has kept a low profile in recent years, giving few interviews and issuing few public statements.
© The Canadian Press, 2006
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