Comments by the deputy prime minister of Russia, Dmitry Rogozin, on the Bulgarian government’s intentions to replace outdated Russian military aircraft were “completely unacceptable”, the Foreign Ministry in Sofia said after Rogozin accused Bulgaria of “betrayal”.
Following October 7 reports in the Russian media citing Bulgarian media that caretaker Prime Minister Georgi Bliznashi’s government had decided to withdraw from use Russian-made warplanes, with Defence Minister Velizar Shalamanov reportedly saying that Bulgaria’s defence sector should be independent from Russia, Rogozin said on Twitter: “Someone named Shalamanov has convinced Prime Minister Bliznashki to once again betray Russia in favour of used F15s”.
Bulgarian-language media reports said that the government wanted to buy eight new fighters, at a price of about 300 million euro.
The same reports called this into question, saying that experts believed that price would secure only second-hand US-made aircraft.
For more than a decade, Bulgaria – a Nato member since 2004 – has contemplated the issue of acquiring new fighter aircraft to replace its ageing Soviet-era warplanes.
Successive governments have not resolved the issue. Bulgaria currently is in the stewardship of a caretaker cabinet pending the outcome of talks on the formation of a new coalition government after October 5 early parliamentary elections.
Responding on October 8 to Rogozin’s comment, Bulgarian caretaker Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said that the Russian deputy prime minister’s statement was completely unacceptable.
Bulgaria is a sovereign state that takes independent decisions related to its security. They are not subject to review by senior representatives of other countries, Mitov said.
Mitov said that he also found “most unworthy” the reference by Rogozin to the Bulgarian Defence Minister.
These were contrary to good manners and showed, unfortunately, a lack of respect for the Bulgarian institutions and state.
“As for the implicit accusations of disloyalty, I would like to remind those who made them that the Republic of Bulgaria is a member of the EU and Nato and does not owe explanations of its sovereign decisions to third parties,” Mitov said.
“The Bulgarian government owes loyalty only to citizens and the national interests of the country,” he said.
Mitov said that Bulgaria and Russia have a long historical tradition and Bulgaria continued to support the development of co-operation between the two countries on the basis of equality and common interests.
“Comments like those of Mr Rogozin do not contribute to this development,” Mitov concluded.
Earlier, Bulgarian media quoted Shalamanov as saying that Russia was trying to interfere in Bulgaria’s internal affairs.
Rogozin’s outburst on Twitter is hardly the first time the Russian deputy prime minister has raised eyebrows with his comments. Earlier in 2014, for example, barred from Romanian air space, he made a reference to next time coming back in a bomber.
Rogozin, in another example, issued thinly-veiled threats against Moldova over that country’s pact with the European Union, saying that he hoped Moldovans would not freeze – a reference to the fact that natural gas supplies come from Russia.
Bulgaria’s caretaker cabinet, in office since early August, was involved in a controversy that month when a draft document was released online on the Defence Ministry website, ahead of the Nato Wales Summit, making reference to “new hybrid warfare, combining conventional methods with the techniques of guerrilla, cyber and information warfare” being conducted by the Kremlin as a major threat to Bulgaria. That draft document was rewritten after cabinet-level intervention.
(Photo of Foreign Minister Mitov: mfa.bg)