Large protests in Bulgaria against risk of new Russian gas deal

August 10 saw the latest of a series of large-scale protests in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia against the risk that the caretaker government appointed by President Roumen Radev will proceed with a new deal with Russia’s Gazprom.

The basis of the protests is that the administration appointed by Radev will negate efforts at energy supply diversification – an imperative propelled by Russia’s war on Ukraine and the Kremlin’s cut-off of natural gas supplies to Bulgaria – and seek a new deal with Gazprom, perpetuating Bulgaria’s dependence on Russia.

The protests, set to continue in coming days under the hashtag “#ГАZwithme” are against returning Bulgaria to a dependence on Russian gas and, by extension, being a party to financing Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The August 10 protest also embraced rejection of the Russian application for the extradition of Alexey Alchin, whom the Kremlin says committed tax evasion in 2015, but whom his supporters say is being targeted by Russia for the Bulgaria-based expatriate’s participation in protests against Russia’s war on Ukraine and his support for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war on their country.

The organisers of the protest have sent an open letter with questions to Radev, the caretaker government and the parties in the now-dissolved 47th National Assembly.

The first question is “With suppliers from which countries will Bulgaria conclude contracts and when, in order to ensure the necessary quantities for the winter, in the context of EU sanctions on gas and oil supplies from Russia?”

The remaining six questions arise from the topic of gas and are related to what the steps will be for conducting fair elections when Bulgaria goes to the polls in early parliamentary elections on October 2.

The questions include the humanitarian policy towards Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria, as well as what Bulgaria’s policy will be regarding military aid to Ukraine.

Organisers say they have not received any response to these questions from Radev’s interim administration.

During its term in office, the administration of now-former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov portrayed itself as taking significant steps towards energy supply diversification, underlining that claims of a continued necessity on Russian gas are a myth, and amount to complicity in funding the Putin regime’s war on Ukraine.

Openly keen to discredit these claims, in the context of the coming election, the Radev-appointed administration has sought to portray Bulgaria as plummeting into an energy crisis, with top officials in the current version of the energy ministry seeing “no problem” in resuming contractual relations with the Russian gas supplier.

The Radev-appointed administration also has sought to portray the steps taken by the Petkov government regarding gas supplies as inadequate and unfulfilled.

In counterpoint to this, the protesters who turned out in Sofia want a guarantee of Bulgaria’s pro-European and pro-Euro-Atlantic future – in short, a decisive vector away from a Kremlin-aligned future and a course that affirms Bulgaria’s alliances with Nato and the EU – existential choices that will be at the core of the vote on October 2.

(Screenshot via BNR)

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