He is proclaimed 'pro-Russian' simply because he doesn't want to go out of his way to antagonize Russia for the sake of it -- does that remind you of anyone?
Rumen Radev, the candidate backed by the Socialist Party has won the first round of elections this weekend in Bulgaria.
Plamen is an ex-pilot who eventually rose to generalship and commanded Bulgaria's air force between 2014 and 2016.
Bulgaria has been a member of NATO since 2004, but if anything Radev's own NATO links are even more extensive than those of his country. Wikipedia:
In 1992, he graduated from the "Maxwell" Squadron Officer School in the United States.
Plamen is a US-educated ex-military officer of a NATO country!
But check this out, Reuters is introducing him as a "pro-Russian candidate":
What is Reuters reasoning for this? Well Radev is against Russia sanctions which are hurting Bulgaria a lot more than countries in the west:
Socialist-backed candidate Rumen Radev, who has called for an end to European Union sanctions against Russia, has won the first round of Bulgaria's presidential election, partial official results showed on Monday.
Additionally he doesn't think that prioritizing Bulgaria's integration with the West should mean the country goes out of its way to make itself an enemy of Russia (which delivered Bulgaria from the Turks in 1878):
In their frustration, my rivals are turning into fear-mongers," Radev said.
"For them, the Euro-Atlantic mantra also means (being an) enemy of Russia. For me, this is an unhealthy position."
This is all that takes these days. Radev wants to keep Bulgaria closely associated with the west via NATO and the EU, but because he's open to trade with Russia and doesn't want to actively antagonize Bulgaria's biggest source of tourists he is "pro-Russian".
Reality is he isn't "pro-Russian", he just wants the normalization of relations with Russia -- ie he is Russia neutral.
This media and political culture where being anti-Russian is the new normal and candidates are red baited simply for wanting normal relations with Russia is unhealthy and has to end.