North Macedonia’s interior ministry says three Bulgarian nationals were detained on Saturday y 4 at the Deve Bair border crossing with Bulgaria for disturbing public order, RFE/RL reported.
A group of Bulgarian citizens were waiting to enter North Macedonia to pay their respects at the tomb of revolutionary Goce Delchev on the occasion of the 151st anniversary of his birth.
Both Skopje and Sofia claims him as a hero in the fight for the liberation from the Ottoman Empire.
The ministry said they were detained for disturbing public order and peace.
The three Bulgarians, „first behaved verbally impudently and inappropriately using most derogatory words and then tried to physically attack the police officers who took legal action, detaining the three while work is being done to completely clear up the case,” the ministry said.
Earlier this week, the interior ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria met to discuss tensions between their two countries and measures aimed at preventing violence during Delchev’s upcoming celebration.
North Macedonian Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski and his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Demerdziev vowed that „no incident” will be tolerated during the Feb. 4 celebration in Skopje.
The announcement that a larger number of Bulgarian citizens would attend the celebration of the Delchev’s birth caused further concern.
Bilateral tensions were heightened earlier this month after the beating in Ohrid of Hristijan Pendikov, a man who identifies as Bulgarian and is an employee of one of the Bulgarian cultural clubs in North Macedonia that some Macedonians regard as provocative.
Following the incident, Bulgaria recalled its ambassador to Skopje.
Relations between the two neighbors have long been strained by cultural, historical, and linguistic differences that spilled into the open three years ago when Sofia invoked its veto power to stall North Macedonia’s negotiations to join the European Union. Sofia finally agreed to withdraw the veto last year.