Bulgaria awaits open corridors for further evacuations from Ukraine

Bulgaria is awaiting open corridors for further evacuations from Ukraine, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told a news conference on February 26, as Bulgaria moved to bring home its nationals fleeing the war ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Petkov described the situation as dynamic and said that the Foreign Ministry was communicating “literally every minute” with the embassy in Kyiv and with the buses that will evacuate Bulgarians from Ukraine.

“In a few minutes, two buses will park in front of our embassy and we are waiting for a corridor so that our compatriots can be taken our safely,” Petkov told the briefing, which began at about 5.45pm.

He said that the situation in Kyiv was changeable and different in various parts of the city, with the Russian military on the move.

The first buses carrying evacuees arrived in Bulgaria on February 26.

Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska said that the curfew now in effect in Kyiv, from 5pm to 8am on Monday, made the evacuation very difficult because people could not leave their homes during this time.

“We are looking with our (security) services for the best way to provide a safe corridor through which to take our compatriots out,” Genchovska said.

She said that a group had been formed via an app which included all those who wanted to be evacuated. The app was used to keep them informed about the time and place of departure, she said.

Genchovska said that three full buses left Odessa for Bulgaria. Among those on board were four Italians and two Ukrainians. Buses would also leave on February 27, she said.

Bulgarian National Radio reported that Ukrainians had arrived in Romania by ferry from Ukraine.

The Ukrainians were greeted by Romanians who offered free transport and shelter, the report said.

Among the Romanians offering help were two young people who offered different options for two families, including transport and accommodation, in different parts of Romania, and free transport to Bucharest for three families. They had used Google Translate to write their sign in Ukrainian.

The Bulgarian government has put online a single information portal to help those leaving Ukraine:  https://gov.bg/bg/ukraine.

The site has information about border control requirements when entering Bulgaria, including details of the identity documents necessary.

A special section of the portal contains information about the procedure for obtaining the status of international protection for citizens of Ukraine arriving in Bulgaria.

The portal also has information for those who want to volunteer or donate to assist.

A section details Bulgaria’s measures against the spread of Covid-19.

From February 28, medical personnel at St Anna University Hospital will examine all victims of the conflict in Ukraine free of charge, the hospital said.

“All those forced to leave their homes because of the hostilities can receive medical care. Doctors at St. Anna Hospital will help everyone, regardless of ethnicity or religion,” it said.

Examinations will be performed in all available offices, by highly qualified doctors with all specialties available in the hospital, the statement said.

Bulgaria’s Kozha Platform for Mental Health Foundation is launching a campaign to provide free online counselling for people in Ukraine and people seeking asylum in Bulgaria because of the war.

Currently, the foundation’s psychologist is giving voluntary consultations in English. It is seeking mental health professionals to volunteer to assist. They should contact [email protected].

With effect from February 26, Bulgaria has eased its Covid-19 rules for arrivals from Ukraine.

Bulgaria’s government is setting up a headquarters at the Cabinet office to deal with Bulgarians arriving from Ukraine, on issues such as the provision of accommodation.

A growing number of municipalities in Bulgaria have said that they are willing to provide accommodation to evacuees from Ukraine.

February 26 saw further public protests in Bulgarian cities and towns against the invasion of Ukraine ordered by Putin. In Plovdiv, a large Ukrainian flag was placed at the Alyosha statue, which commemorates the 1944 Red Army invasion of Bulgaria.

On the night of February 25, the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Sofia and several public buildings in various cities in Bulgaria were lit in the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

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