More than 20 Bulgarian schools have received bomb threats by email, Bulgaria’s interim Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev said this week.
Demerdzhiev has described the threat as a hybrid attack, and an attempt to create chaos ahead of the general elections on 2 April.
On Tuesday, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister said Russian interference was the main suspect behind the threats. The Russian embassy in Sofia denied involvement.
On Wednesday, Demerdzhiev said investigations pointed to a Russian role, though not necessarily to Russian authorities.
The Interim Prime Minister Galab Donev has established two working groups to devise a safety procedure for schools that are set to host voters on Sunday. The groups have also been tasked with updating the National Counter-Terrorism Plan.
“No matter what anyone tells you, it’s not dangerous to vote,” Donev told reporters, hitting back at the threats.
The Interior Minister confirmed that police presence would be increased around schools in order to secure the voting process.
Bozhidar Bozhanov, former Minister of Electronic Governance and “We Continue the Change” member, proposed the crux of the issue may be in the low security levels of some Bulgarian email services such as abv.bg and mail.bg. The email hosts were popular amongst local users close to 20 years ago, but continue to be widely used by schools and institutions.
Bozhanov recommended the use of Microsoft’s Office365 service instead, for which the Ministry of Education has obtained a licence but remains relatively unused.
The first of the bomb threats were received on 27 March, and were sent to schools in Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Pleven and Yambol.
Anonymously calling bomb threats to schools has long been a popular prank in an effort to cancel school activities and exams. Recent events, however, appear unconnected to these pranks.
This weekend’s elections in Bulgaria come after two years of political turmoil, beginning when GERB leader Boyko Borissov failed to win a majority in 2021.
What followed was the rise, and fall, of “There’s Such a People” led by TV personality Slavi Trifonov.
In 2021, Kiril Petkov’s “We Continue the Change“ secured a shaky coalition pledging to implement reformist politics. That cabinet was ousted following a no-confidence vote.
Still, recent survey results put “We Continue the Change” in the lead with 23.7 percent, and GERB in second place on 22.3 percent support.
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