In the first four months after the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, 4200 tons of weapons were sent from Bulgaria to Rzeszów airport in Poland, 70km from the Ukrainian border, the former head of Bulgaria’s Kintex weapons plant Alexander Mihailov told a news conference on August 4.
Mihailov said that the weapons exports had taken place with the signature of then-Economy Minister Kornelia Ninova.
Mihailov, who was fired from his Kintex post by Ninova, told the news conference that he had documentary proof of the flights carrying the weapons exports, obtained from Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry through freedom of information legislation.
“In the first four months, from March to June inclusive, 60 aircraft transported Bulgarian weapons to this (Rzeszów) airport near the Ukrainian border,” Mihailov said.
“Sixty flights in four months means that every day, 70 tons of Bulgarian weapons went to Ukraine,” he said.
Mihailov said that to visualise that quantity “that’s 212 heavy-duty lorries lined up in a column close to each other over four kilometres”.
He said that foreign media had reported Rzeszów airport to be a major transport hub for military aid to Ukraine.
Referring to the repeated denials by Ninova – who is leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which opposes Bulgaria supplying arms to Ukraine – that such exports had taken place, Mihailov said: “For Mrs Kornelia Ninova to claim that she does not know where the Bulgarian weapons are going is not only an untenable statement, but also insulting to the Bulgarian citizens”.
“I claim that huge quantities of weapons were exported to Ukraine with her signature, and everyone in the chain knew about it,” he said.
“I am giving this news conference to prove Mrs Ninova is lying. She claims that ‘not a single Bulgarian cartridge went to Ukraine’, which is not the case. With her signature, weapons of enormous value were exported,” Mihailov said.
Mihailov said that he had data only on deliveries through Rzeszów airport, but that weapons also were exported to Ukraine through other Polish airports, as well as via Romania and Slovakia.
He said that from the data obtained, it was clear that for 14 months before the war, “there was not a single flight with an arms delivery from Bulgaria to this Polish airport”.
Mihailov alleged that for more than a month, Ninova, whom he said had felt that she would not remain in government, had deliberately blocked the consideration of export applications by the export control commission and did not sign requests for the export of Bulgarian weapons worth a billion euro.
This amounted to a backlog of 200 applications, he said.
He said that this meant that Ninova had caused enormous damage to Bulgaria’s weapons companies.
“The caretaker government must solve the problem of the blocked applications for the export of arms due to Ninova’s inaction,” Mihailov said.
He said that there may be protests by the companies from the industry and payment of penalties under contracts.
“And they have already been received advances, people have been hired, raw materials and equipment have been bought. The industry cannot suffer because of Ninova. The authorities must end the masquerade,” Mihailov said.
According to Mihailov, Ninova had set a trap for President Roumen Radev, whose caretaker government took office on August 2.
“If his (Radev’s) cabinet does not allow the exports based on the applications accumulated in the commission, there will be protests from the industry and claims against the state for penalties and lost benefits, and if the export is approved, she will proclaim that Bulgarian weapons are going to Ukraine through third countries, something she herself allowed for months,” Mihailov said.
In the first two hours after Mihailov’s news conference, there was no immediate reaction from Ninova.
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