Russian specialists will not participate in the overhaul of the Bulgarian Air Force’s Su-25 military jets, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov said.
Karakachanov rejected the possibility a few days after it was raised during a visit to Moscow by a parliamentary delegation headed by National Assembly Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva. The idea was discussed between Karakayancheva and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to Parliament’s website.
Karakachanov said that Bulgaria already had paid Belarus the first tranche for the overhaul of the Su-25s.
Visiting Graf Ignatiev military air base, he said that of the Bulgarian Air Force’s 14 Su-25s, five flew, of which one was due to be grounded. “That leaves four, which if by July, August, steps are not taken, will be grounded and the military will lose capabilities.”
The overhaul would be done in Belarus, he said. Karakachanov said that he assumed political responsibility for the implementation of the contract, which amounts to 82.5 million leva (about 42.18 million euro).
Karakachanov said that he did not believe that the contract violated the arms embargo on Belarus. If the contract did not go ahead, Bulgaria would face having to pay a penalty of four million leva, he said.
“This stupid situation where we will pay penalties and they will not give us aircraft is just insane to me,” Karakachanov said.
Karakachanov believes that Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov, who has already expressed disagreement with the planes to be overhauled by Belarus, has been misled to withdraw his support for the public procurement.
“When I saw that it was not signed by two of his ministry experts, it became clear to me that somewhere there someone gave noxious advice or incompetent advice or was afraid to sign.”
Karakachanov said that it was distorted information that had led Karayancheva to request that Russian engineers carry out the overhaul of the Su-25s at Bulgaria’s Avionas plant.
“I was a bit surprised, given that the contract with Belarus was finalised already in December, by the talk with the Russians about wanting co-operation, maybe someone has provided wrong information. Maybe we can go to such an option if, God forbid, the contract with Belarus is not implemented,” he said.
He expected that in spite of the misunderstandings, there would not be tensions in the Cabinet over the overhaul of the Su-25s.
(Photo, of Su-25s at Bulgaria’s Armed Forces Day in May 2018: Ministry of Defence)