- The photo with a burnt Bulgarian flag being shared on Facebook is not from Ukraine in 2015, but from the Macedonian village of Vevchani in 2021.
“2015. The Bulgarian flag is burning in Kyiv. Now they pray, for help. We Bulgarians are asked to stand against Russia, which freed us from 5 centuries of slavery. Glory to Russia. I do not betray my brothers. I don’t agree with the war, but I can’t stand against Russia either!”. (Translation from Bulgarian)
This text, accompanied by the same photo, is being shared by Bulgarian Facebook users.
One of these publications was reported to Factcheck.bg by reader Mihail Atanasov. The verification shows that the same photo, accompanied by the same text, has been posted by different users since March 2022, more actively in December 2022. Thus, a significant total number of interactions (reactions, comments and shares) has been achieved – over 2500.
Verification using the tools of the WeVerify platform shows that the photo has been cropped and further manipulated – in the right part of the manipulated photo there is a thin light line that is not part of the original. In its original horizontal format, a Macedonian flag is visible in the upper right corner – in the cropped version it is missing.
The story of the photo
On January 14, 2021, information began to appear on a number of Bulgarian news websites about a burnt Bulgarian flag in the village of Vevchani in the territory of the Republic of North Macedonia during an annual traditional festival.
The carnival in Vevchani is three days long, and on the last day the carnival masks are traditionally burned. The burning of the Bulgarian flag also takes place on the same day.
In the broadcast of Bulgarian and Macedonian TV channels, footage of the burning of the Bulgarian flag can be seen, which coincides with the photo from the Facebook post.
The next day, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Ekaterina Zaharieva, ordered the Bulgarian ambassador in Skopje, Angel Angelov, to express our country’s strong indignation at this act of vandalism.
Quick reactions followed from the Macedonian authorities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia and the president Stevo Pendarovski publish their statements on Facebook, in which they are disturbed by what happened in the village of Vevchani.
On January 16, 2021, it became clear that the prosecutor’s office in North Macedonia filed a case for a possible criminal offense of defamation of a foreign country under Article 181 of the country’s Criminal Code.
Three natural persons have been held responsible for the act of vandalism. In March of the same year, the prosecution proposed that the three defendants be fined – 7000 euros for one of them and 5000 euros for the other two.
The photo of a burnt Bulgarian flag, which is circulating among Bulgarian Facebook users, is not from Kyiv in 2015. The circulating image has been cropped and further manipulated, and the accompanying text does not correspond to the truth. The photo is from January 2021, when during a carnival in the village of Vevchani, Republic of North Macedonia, the Bulgarian flag was burned in an act of vandalism.
Translated by Vanessa Nikolova