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Protests rallied in a park near the public beach.

SOFIA -- Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has called on the government and the prosecutor-general to step down as thousands of citizens gathered in the capital and near a beach on the Black Sea to protest corruption within the nation’s elite.

Radev made the comments on July 11 after the Prosecutor-General's Office conducted a raid of his staff members two days earlier.

The search in the presidential office came after Radev said the National Protection Service (NSO) -- which is responsible for guarding the president, prime minister, and other high officials -- should stop protecting Ahmed Dogan, the honorary chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS).


Dogan is one of the most powerful people in Bulgaria. Many people consider his DPS to have control over the nation’s judiciary, including the prosecutor’s office.

Radev’s comments were prompted after it was discovered that NSO members were illegally keeping people away from a public beach that is located near Dogan’s summer residence.

On July 11, several thousand protesters made their way to the beach near Dogan’s residence, which is located about 400 kilometers from the capital, Sofia. The protesters demanded equal protection for all and access to the beach.

Some of the protesters made their way back to the capital in the evening for a third night of rallies against corruption and the ruling government. They chanted “resign” in front of the government building, the parliament, and Palace of Justice.

The protests came amid rising political tension between Radev and the center-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov ahead of general elections next year.

Radev has often criticized Borisov's government for doing too little to uproot endemic corruption and has blasted prosecutors for cherry-picking their probes and colluding with the government.

Ihor Kolomoyskiy

A company controlled by Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy is bidding to manage the assets of a local media company, potentially giving the tycoon greater influence over the nation’s news content.

A subsidiary of Kolomoyskiy’s 1+1 Media Group is one of six companies vying for UMH Holding, once the leading media company in Ukraine, the Kyiv Post reported.

A state agency charged with recovering and managing assets stolen during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych is handling the bidding process. Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014 following street protests over his corrupt rule.

Fugitive oligarch Serhiy Kurchenko bought UHM in 2013 for $400 million, but a Ukrainian court seized the asset in 2017 on the grounds that the money had been acquired illegally.

UMH Holding, though no longer wielding the same influence as in previous years, still owns 72 legal entities, including newspapers, radio stations, magazines and websites. It also possesses the intellectual property rights on 283 trademarks as well as printing equipment.

Kolomoyskiy’s media assets are credited with helping comic-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelenskiy defeat incumbent Petro Poroshenko in a landslide in the April 2019 presidential election.

His media empire already includes seven television channels, a group of Internet sites, and a production department, among other assets.

Kolomoyskiy returned to Ukraine from self-imposed exile shortly after Zelenskiy’s victory and is now considered one of the most influential oligarchs in the country.

Western nations are wary of his influence and have pushed Zelenskiy to pass laws that would prevent Kolomoyskiy from regaining his bank, which was nationalized by the state in 2016 amid a $5.5 billion hole in its accounts.

Ukraine’s wealthiest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, has criticized the bidding process for UMH Holding, calling it “a covert transfer of broadcasting licenses” that violates local broadcasting laws. Akhmetov also owns media assets.

With reporting by the Kyiv Post

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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