How does it feel to be a devoted US vassal and fall under master's sanctions? Bulgaria is perplexed.
US Ambassador to Bulgaria Herro Mustafa announced on Monday that the United States was going to impose sanctions on a Bulgarian official. This is the first time in the history of the relationship between the two countries, but the official is implicated in corruption.
The announcement from the US ambassador started a guessing game in Bulgaria: analysts, commentators, and social media users wanted to be first to guess the name of the corrupt Bulgarian person.
Some were perplexed that the United States could carry out an act of justice against their country, a sovereign state. Opinions were voiced that it could be Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who was always happy to dance to Washington's tune, but failed to please his masters when he decided to take part in the Turkish Stream project.
Mike Pompeo explained to the Bulgarians on Twitter on Wednesday that the United States was going to impose sanctions on Judge Andon Mitalov, who ordered to release Nikolai Malinov, the leader of the Russophile movement, on bail so that he could have an opportunity to go to Moscow to take part in a special event, at which Russian President Putin decorated with the Order of Friendship. Interestingly, Malinov was accused of spying for Russia.
"This is the first such designation in Bulgaria and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to combating corruption in Bulgaria and globally," Pompeo said in the statement. "The United States continues to stand with the people of Bulgaria in their fight against corruption. The State Department will use these authorities to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally."
The Bulgarian judge and his family were thus barred from entering the United States, their property in the USA, if any, would be arrested.
According to blitz.bg publication, the Bulgarian judge was bribed to release Malinov. At the same time, the Americans did not provide any evidence to substantiate their claims. At least, the Prosecutor General's Office of Bulgaria is not aware or any, and neither is the Bulgarian administration.
Prosecutor General of Bulgaria, Sotir Tsatsarov, asked the inspection of the Supreme Judicial Council to investigate the work of Judge Andon Mitalov, who issued the permit to release Malinov, and to punish him accordingly, if any violations were going to be found. According to novini.bg website, no violations were found.
Malinov said in an interview with Bulgarian television (BTV) that he was not familiar with the judge, while the Americans humiliated Bulgaria with their decision.
"I don't know the judge - this is how the procedure works - I never met him. The Americans administer justice without waiting for the decision of the Bulgarian court, which is completely unacceptable. From their words, it's nowhere clear that he was punished because of my case. They bring charges without providing any evidence. To crown it all, there is no evidence of my espionage in Russia's favor," Malinov said.
"It will be for the Bulgarian court to decide whether I am guilty or not. Neither the prosecutor's office, nor the United States, nor Mike Pompeo can make this decision. I was in Russia two months ago, I returned. I am a Bulgarian patriot and I want to work in Bulgaria. The US decision on Judge Mitalov is humiliating for Bulgaria. Washington cannot interfere in our internal affairs. America cannot convict the Bulgarian judge before the Bulgarian court does it," he added.
Hristo Ivanov, co-chair of Democratic Bulgaria, said that the incident was more of a political message, rather than an act to impose sanctions.
The political message is as follows: "the Bulgarian government has been very clearly ordered to stay in the Euro-Atlantic region," Ivanov said on BTV.
"This is an extremely sad moment for me, because I do not want Bulgaria to be turned into a banana republic. I would not want foreign governments to identify corrupt judges here. According to Ivanov, it is very important to strengthen our institutions and restore confidence in them."
Alexander Simov, a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said on Nova TV channel that it was up to Bulgaria to look into the case."
"We were hoping that that someone would come and solve the Bulgarian problems in 3-4 years. We cannot expect anyone else to struggle against corruption. For two days we were thinking that they would expose the names that every Bulgarian talks about all the time," he said.
Mitalov started his career in 1991 as a military investigator. He left the judicial system in 1999, before coming back to work there later. Earlier, Bulgarian Defense Minister Krasimir Karakachanov said he did not know any reasons for US sanctions. He did not comment on the USA's decision in relation to Malinov.
According to Ambassador Herro Mustafa, Mitalov is just a harbinger. This brings up the words that Franklin Roosevelt once said in relation to Nicaraguan dictator Somosa: "Somosa may be a son of a bitch, but this is our son of a bitch." If the Bulgarians follow the path of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, they do not need to worry.