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Bulgaria Mulls Sending Old Apcs to Ukraine Following Zelensky’s Visit

Pro-government MP says cabinet is minded to donate about 100 Soviet-era armoured vehicles and APCs to Ukraine following President Zelensky’s brief visit to Sofia last week.

Bulgaria is to step up military aid to Ukraine following last week’s brief visit to the country by Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Today we’ll file [in parliament] a draft on further military aid to Ukraine. It will consist of more than 100 armoured vehicles, predominantly APCs”, Ivaylo Mirchev, MP and co-leader of the reformist party Democratic Bulgaria, said on Thursday.

His party is part of the uneasy ruling coalition between the opposing forces of “We Continue the Change” and Democratic Bulgaria on one side and GERB and United Democratic Forces on the other. 

The vehicles were manufactured in the 1950s and the 1960s and were acquired but never used by the Bulgarian army in the 1980s. 

This will be a third package of military aid from Bulgaria to Ukraine. After months of heated discussion between pro-EU and pro-Kremlin parties, parliament finally voted in November last year to send Ukraine weapons.

Mirchev added that, apart from the military aid, over the last 16 months Ukraine had bought a 2.5 billion euros’ worth of weapons from Bulgaria. 

The draft bill, which is expected to be put to vote soon, comes a week after President Zelensky made a last-minute first official visit to Sofia. 

By the time his seven-hour visit ended, parliament had voted to sell Ukraine the Soviet-era equipment of the power plant in Belene. 

Zelensky’s short stay in Sofia last Thursday boosted the Euro-Atlantic profile of the Bulgarian cabinet. But his meeting with President Rumen Radev and new PM Nickolay Denkov saw a heated exchange between the two presidents. Radev, known for pro-Kremlin sympathies, used a neutral term for the war in Ukraine, referring to it as a “conflict” – which did not stay unnoticed by Zelensky.

On Monday, Radev compained that Zelensky’s visit had not been coordinated with the presidency, again opposed any move to would make Bulgaria appear more clearly on Ukraine’s side, and expressed concern that military aid would weaken Bulgaria’s own capabilities. 

This created friction between the presidency and the Defence Ministry, now headed by “We Continue the Change” member and outspoken critic of Russia Todor Tagarev. 

“It is alarming that the presidential institution is manipulating public opinion with false suggestions about our military aid to Ukraine and thus fueling the disinformation campaign that is being targeted against Bulgaria,” the ministry said on Monday.

Before the formation of the current cabinet, a number of interim governments were headed by people more or less close to Radev, such as Stefan Yanev, who after being ousted, created a new pro-Kremlin party. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to tensions in the Bulgarian parliament, which was also destabilised by a two-year political stalemate. 

During this phase, from 2021 to 2023, President Radev activated interim cabinets to reverse reforms and stop military aid to Ukraine, while the far-right party Revival expanded its support through systematic disinformation campaigns and by backing anti-Western politics.

“There’s Such a People”, a party which has adopted an increasingly nationalist profile, on Thursday said it will seek that an assurance from the government that any aid to Ukraine will not undermine Bulgaria’s own national security. 

Source : Balkaninsight