First buses with those fleeing Putin’s war on Ukraine arrive in Bulgaria

The first two buses with 56 Bulgarian and Ukrainian citizens, that left the Ukrainian city of Odessa on February 25, arrived in Bulgaria on February 26.

UN refugee agency chief Filippo Grandi said on February 25 that more than 50 000 Ukrainian refugees had fled their country in less than 48 hours — a majority to Poland and Moldova — and many more were moving towards its borders.

Bulgarian National Television said that the buses that had reached Bulgaria had been expected to arrive eight hours earlier, but had been held up by increased traffic, border checks and the choice of a longer but safe route.

The two buses, full of women and children, were escorted throughout their more than 15-hour journey from Odessa to Bulgaria.

Accompanying the buses were people travelling in their own cars to reach Bulgaria.

Most of the passengers in the two buses will be accommodated with their relatives and friends in Bulgaria.

Another bus is being arranged to travel from Odessa to transport the next Bulgarian citizens who want to be evacuated as Ukraine comes under sustained assault in the invasion by Russian military forces ordered by Russian President Putin.

Diplomatic representatives of Bulgaria have been sent to Romania and Moldova to provide the necessary assistance to Bulgarians, the government information service said on February 26.

After the buses reached Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna, district governor Blagomir Kotsev said that all those who had arrived had been accommodated, Bulgarian National Radio reported.

Close to 300 people are expected to be accommodated in hotel complexes in Varna.

Kotsev said that people would be accommodated in about eight to hotels, most at Golden Sands.

“Who will bear the costs – that is a question that needs to be clarified, I hope on Monday. I’m waiting for the government to tell me,” Kotsev said.

He said that the coordination headquarters that had been set up in Varna would meet on February 28.

February 26 saw further protests in Bulgarian cities, including capital Sofia, Varna and Bourgas, against Putin’s aggression against Ukraine.

Bulgarian National Television said that at the protest in Sofia, participants welcomed the position taken by Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who on his way to the Cabinet building, greeted the demonstrators.

Bulgaria’s Tourism Minister Hristo Prodanov told Nova Televizia on February 26 that his ministry was collecting offers from hotel owners who were willing to provide accommodation to Bulgarians evacuated from Ukraine.

He said that hoteliers from any part of Bulgaria could submit offers.

Prodanov said that a coordination centre would be located at the Cabinet office, which would distribute the arrivals from Ukraine.

“The state is currently covering the costs of accommodating the refugees. 

“We want to offer accommodation and full board with meals. We will also count on European solidarity, because as a country close to Ukraine, it is normal for those fleeing military action to turn to us. The leading factor should not be money when helping people fleeing war,” Prodanov said.

He said that the imposed sanctions would affect small countries such as Bulgaria, with Bulgarian tourism suffering the most.

Bulgarian National Radio reported on February 26 that there had been mass cancellations from abroad of reservations in Bulgaria’s mountain resort of Bansko.

Hoteliers in Bansko predicted that the war between Russia and Ukraine would worsen the situation, the report said.

Until the end of the winter season, the business in Bansko will rely mainly on Bulgarian tourists, said Malin Bistrin, who said that he expected that all reservations from Russia and Ukraine would be cancelled.

“Given that the two countries are at war, given that the flights have been suspended, I believe that from now on every one will be cancelled,” Bistrin said.

He said that this was true not only of Bulgaria’s winter resorts, but also at the seaside, where more than 4000 tourist nights had been cancelled.

There is a real risk of losing most foreign tourists this year, Bistrin predicted, citing Bulgaria’s proximity to hostilities as the main reason.

“The war is not good for anyone. Bulgaria is very close, so we are extremely worried. And for summer tourism, especially because where there is a war near, no foreign tourist will come, to afford to come and holiday with us, both at the Black Sea coast and in our mountains under such conditions.”

(Screenshot via Bulgarian National Television)

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