Vice-Admiral Emil Evtimov is Bulgaria’s acting Chief of Defence, succeeding General Konstantin Popov who stepped down because his former subordinate Roumen Radev was elected the country’s President.
Evtimov’s inauguration in the post on January 18 came a day before Radev, formerly commander of Bulgaria’s air force, is to take the oath in the National Assembly as the next head of state. Radev’s inauguration as president is on January 22.
At the time he stepped down, Popov said that he wanted to give Radev a free hand to choose his own Defence Chief. Bulgaria’s President is head of state but not head of government, while as commander-in-chief, the President makes senior military appointments on the basis of recommendations by the Cabinet.
Popov’s departure is said to have been prompted by long-standing unease in his professional relationship with Radev.
Evtimov, who is expected to remain in office for about a year, pledged to continue reforms of Bulgaria’s military, including in regard to personnel, modernisation and Nato integration.
The handover ceremony was presided over by Nikolai Nenchev, Bulgaria’s outgoing Defence Minister and the accused in prosecutions linked to alleged malfeasance in office regarding Bulgaria’s MiG-29 fighter jet engine upgrade contracts. Nenchev denies wrongdoing.
On January 18, Bulgaria’s Legal World website said that among those giving evidence in the trial of Nenchev would be Radev.
Nenchev’s trial in Sofia City Court is scheduled to start on February 22, a month after Radev’s inauguration.
The list of 23 witnesses includes the name of Radev, the former air force chief who on leaving office was openly critical of Nenchev, calling him – among other things – incompetent to hold the defence portfolio.
(Photo, of Popov, Nenchev and Evtimov: Bulgarian Ministry of Defence)