Bulgarian President Radev: Former defence minister Nenchev ‘crashed’ in MiG-29 overhaul deal

Bulgaria’s President and former Air Force commander Roumen Radev said on July 4 that former defence minister Nikolai Nenchev had “crashed” in concluding a contract with Poland for the overhaul of MiG-29 fighter jet engines.

Radev was speaking to journalists outside court at the Palace of Justice, where he was called to give evidence in the trial of Nenchev, who was Bulgaria’s defence minister from 2014 to 2017.

A member of the second Borissov government from the quota of coalition minority partner the Reformist Bloc, Nenchev faces charges in connection with the deal with Poland to overhaul the engines of Bulgaria’s ageing Soviet-made jet fighters. Nenchev denies wrongdoing.

Radev, who resigned as Bulgarian Air Force commander to stand in Bulgaria’s presidential elections in late 2016 on a socialist-backed ticket, has for months been a public critic of Nenchev. When Radev resigned his commission, his first public remarks were directed against the then-defence minister.

Speaking to reporters on July 4, Radev described Nenchev’s actions as ignorance and indifference.

Radev also urged the head of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party parliamentary group, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, not to comment on the issue of military aviation.

“Tsvetanov understands about apartments, not aircraft,” Radev. Tsvetanov’s only connection with aviation was that he spoke on autopilot, while someone else set his course, the President said.

There have been considerable tensions recently between GERB and Radev after Tsvetanov alleged that President Radev had interfered in the process towards the selection of a new fighter jet for the Bulgarian Air Force, before the caretaker government had taken any decision on the matter.

Tsvetanov also had announced, and Parliament has now approved, the formation of an ad hoc committee to investigate the process to acquire a new fighter jet. While criticising Radev, Tsvetanov has denied that the committee is directed against Radev.

Radev described the parliamentary ad hoc committee as a political tribunal directed against him.

The President, called to give evidence in his capacity as the commander of the Air Force at the time of the alleged malfeasance in office by Nenchev, said that he had advised Nenchev several times to go ahead with signing a contract to continue Russian maintenance of the MiG-29 engines.

He had not recommended contracts with Poland, Radev said.

An archive photo shows Roumen Radev, second left, then chief of the Air Force and now Bulgaria’s president, with then-Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev (at the microphone) and Boiko Borissov, behind Nenchev. Photo: Bulgarian Ministry of Defence.

Radev told reporters: “This Parliament produces political scandals, but it does not produce laws”.

He said that at his meeting on July 3 with Prime Minister Borissov, they had discussed how to prevent “the war between the institutions that some GERB politicians are trying to ignite”.




The Sofia Globe staff

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