SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian nationalists have marched through Sofia, the country's capital, to honor a World War II general known for his anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activities.
The annual Lukov March, staged by the far-right Bulgarian National Union, attracted hundreds of dark-clad supporters who walked through downtown Sofia holding torches and Bulgarian flags and chanting nationalist slogans.
It came despite strong condemnation by human rights groups, political parties and foreign embassies. The city mayor had banned the rally but organizers won a court order overturning the ban.
A heavy police presence blocked any clashes between nationalists and their opponents.
Ahead of the march, the World Jewish Congress warned about the rise of far-right activities across Europe aimed at promoting anti-Semitism, hatred, xenophobia and Nazi glorification among young people.
"We urge governments across Europe to prioritize the introduction of administrative bans against such marches. This is not just a problem of the Jewish communities, but of European citizens and governments at large," the organization's CEO Robert Singer said.
In Sofia, the marchers praised Gen. Hristo Lukov, who had supported Germany during World War II and was killed by an anti-fascist resistance movement on Feb. 13, 1943. The general served as Bulgaria's war minister from 1935 to 1938, and led the pro-Nazi Germany Union of Bulgarian Legions from 1932 until 1943.
Organizers deny that Lukov was an anti-Semitic fascist or that they are neo-fascists, but claim that the descendants of the murderers of Lukov are afraid of the event.
Zvezdomir Andronov, leader of the Bulgarian National Union, says the group's main objective is "the salvation of the Bulgarian people" from the social and economic crisis the country has been facing for many decades.
Nationalists from other European countries voiced anti-globalist and anti-EU slogans at the march and called on their peers from across the continent to join forces.
"We want to get in contact with other nationalists in Europe, as we strongly believe that free, independent countries are very important. We want to regain the power from the globalists — the people who are running the EU, the people who are devastating Europe," said Per Sjogren of Sweden's Nordic Resistance Movement.