Several members of Bulgaria’s government have queued up to deny that the country is supplying weapons to Ukraine.
The reactions came after The Guardian published on June 23 an interview with Prime Minister Kiril Petkov in which he was quoted as saying that he feared a “drastic shift” in Bulgaria’s policies on Ukraine if he could not get a new coalition government voted into office.
“I’m afraid that it will become a much more timid, soft state on the rhetoric against the war and that some of our exports [of aid] to Poland will be sharply decreased,” The Guardian quoted Petkov as saying.
Petkov gave the interview shortly before his government lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence, opening the way for the government’s resignation and efforts to form a new governing coalition. Should those efforts fail, a caretaker government will be appointed by the President and a date for early elections set.
Following headlines saying Petkov had confirmed that Bulgaria was exporting weapons to Ukraine, Economy Minister Kornelia Ninova – leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which as a governing coalition partner opposed such support – told Bulgarian National Television that Bulgaria had not exported “a single cartridge” to Ukraine.
Ninova, whose signature as Economy Minister is required to authorise arms exports, said that Bulgaria does export weapons and ammunition to other countries but could not control what those countries do with them.
On June 24, the government media office issued a statement saying that Bulgaria was “strictly implementing” the May 4 decision by the National Assembly.
That decision allowed for a comprehensive package of measures to overcome the consequences of sanctions on Russia, and providing humanitarian, financial and military-technical assistance, in accordance with Bulgaria’s capabilities, the statement said.
President Roumen Radev, a critic of Petkov and his government, said that Petkov had tried to “shoot” him and hit Ninova instead.
On June 25, Defence Minister Dragomir Zakov said: “I have not read anything like this.
“What I saw in the media was more of a supplement to what he said. I saw that he said that we were exporting weapons to Poland and to allies. Look – we have a decision by the National Assembly,” Bulgarian National Television reported Zakov as saying.
He said that it was “speculation” that the export of weapons from Bulgaria would be reduced if a caretaker government took office.
Matters took a turn on the evening of June 25, after Radev’s chief secretary, Dimitar Stoyanov, posted on his Facebook account part of a document that he said showed that the final destination of an arms shipment from Bulgaria was being redirected from Afghanistan to Ukraine.
Referring to Ninova and her chief of staff Kaloyan Metodiev saying that Radev was spreading lies, and his goal was to overthrow the Cabinet, Stoyanov said: “Some have subscribed to the lie. But she also contracted the disease by lying after she passed it from a minister to a chief of staff”.
Labour and Social Policy Minister Georgi Gyokov, a member of the Cabinet from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, told Nova Televizia on June 26: “Bulgaria is not giving weapons to Ukraine.
“What other countries do with the Bulgarian weapons they receive under contracts is their problem. I’m tired of this topic circulating among the public.
“Anyone who says something should show documents. The real facts show that the Cabinet, the National Assembly and anyone in our country that has anything to do with weapons has made no such decision,” Gyokov said.
Asked whether he agreed with Radev’s thesis that Petkov’s Guardian interview had “shot” Ninova, Gyokov said: “It’s strange to me that everyone is dealing with an issue that’s not on the agenda.
“I think the President should be more concerned with the Budget, not the weapons. These are political skirmishes that will not help the Bulgarian people,” Gyokov said.
BSP MP Yavor Bozhankov said that Stoyanov had published several lines of text and suggested that weapons were being exported from Afghanistan to Ukraine.
“But he did not pay attention to the fact that the document reads ‘Ministry of Economy’. That is, the document is from Radev’s caretaker cabinet. Because the ministry that Ninova heads was renamed the ‘Ministry of Economy and Industry’,” Bozhankov said.
Stoyanov had “cruelly shot Radev,” Bozhankov said.
Prime Minister Petkov, speaking to reporters on June 26, said: “We have not had direct (arms) exports in any way from Bulgaria to Ukraine.
“I do not know what these documents are, but I am sure we have exports to our traditional partners, to European Union countries, but there is no such Bulgaria-Ukraine direct transfer,” Petkov said.
For The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of Russia’s war on Ukraine, please click here.
Please support The Sofia Globe by clicking on the orange button below and signing up to become a supporter on patreon.com. Becoming a patron of The Sofia Globe costs as little as three euro a month or the equivalent in other currencies.