By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
SOFIA/BULGARIA (Worthy News) – Bulgaria, once labeled the “sixteenth republic” of the Soviet empire for its obedient allegiance to Moscow, should send military aid to Ukraine, the parliament decided Thursday.
Legislators gave the caretaker government one month to plan for what weapons the Black Sea country could send to support Kyiv.
It marked a significant shift for Bulgaria, one of the few European Union countries not sending military aid to Ukraine.
The vote came months after the Russia-friendly Socialist party, a coalition partner in the previous government, blocked a decision on delivering military aid in May.
Besides Bulgaria, Hungary was among the most outspoken European Union nation against weapon deliveries to Ukraine, citing the need for peace talks involving the U.S. and Russia.
Bulgaria’s involvement in the war was expected to add to tensions in the Balkan and Eastern European regions, where Russia has been trying to expand its military and political influence.
Bulgarian Defense Minister Dimitar Stoyanov complained Thursday that Bulgaria could not afford to send its Soviet-made anti-aircraft missile systems or fighter jets, which Kyiv wants.
The minister argued that these weapons could not be replaced quickly.
However, with 175 votes “for” and 49 “against” a six-point plan, lawmakers approved the military aid in principle.
They also decided the cabinet needed to launch talks with Bulgaria’s NATO allies to replace or boost its defense capabilities and allow for a faster upgrade of its Soviet-era military equipment.
It was not immediately clear what military aid could be sent or how soon it could happen.
“Heavy equipment such as the S-300, S-125, and other anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as SU-25 and MiG-29 fighter jets, can not be given at this point. We would need to replace equipment first,” Stoyanov explained.
Georg Georgiev, a lawmaker from the center-right GERB party, outlined the need to support Ukraine and start giving weapons instead of only selling them.
Bulgaria does not export arms to Ukraine directly. Still, officials have said they cannot control what buyers, mainly from European Union nations, do with deliveries bought from the Balkan country.
Bulgarian arms exports have more than doubled since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, said a report by the Bulgarian Industrial Association cited by Reuters news agency.
In August, the economy ministry approved arms export deals worth over 1 billion levs ($498.31 million).
Most of the weapons were destined for Poland – one of the key hubs for sending weapons to Ukraine, officials said.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow about moves to deliver arms to Ukraine, but Bulgaria has deep traditional ties with Russia.
Yet the war in Ukraine has been sowing significant divisions between pro-NATO and pro-Russian groups.
Earlier this year, Bulgaria still celebrated Liberation Day, marking the end of Ottoman rule after the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-78.
The March commemoration was seen as a sign of remaining historically close ties between Bulgaria and Russia, despite the war in Ukraine.
On March 2, the Russian ambassador in Bulgaria even laid a wreath at the Monument to Freedom in honor of the victims of that 19th-century conflict.
But on that same day, a Bulgarian general was arrested for spying for Russia while Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s fired his defense minister for pro-Russian statements just a day earlier.
With the war in Ukraine ongoing, more turbulent times await the people in Bulgaria.
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