We are no longer ‘soft’ on Russia – POLITICO

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has said his country is no longer “soft” on Russia, but acknowledges that Sofia still has red lines when it comes to responding to Russian aggression.

Bulgaria has some of the deepest ties to Moscow of any EU country and its politicians are historically known for trying to integrate deeper into the EU and NATO, while remaining comfortable with the Kremlin.

Petkov, however, is trying to chart a more clearly pro-Western trajectory. In a sign of this, he this week sacked Defense Minister Stefan Yanev after he reproduced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s version of the war in Ukraine and recommended that Bulgaria follow a neutral path.

Sofia would no longer be sitting on the fence, according to Petkov.

“We supported all the sanctions,” he said. “We have become a very, very predictable and strong supporter” of NATO and EU decisions, he said, adding: “Bulgaria is no longer a soft country that only has acts of balance”.

“I don’t think anyone in Europe is protected at this point, both from what’s going to happen next – we don’t know what Putin is doing anymore – and also from even an accidental nuclear threat,” the Prime said. Minister, highlighting the risks Ukraine faces. nuclear power plants, which Russian forces fire on.

At the same time, Petkov acknowledged that Bulgaria was unwilling to go as far as some of its NATO allies.

While Sofia provides humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Bulgaria does not send weapons.

“We are too close to the conflict to be able to do that,” Petkov said. Last year, Bulgarian prosecutors said they were investigating possible Russian involvement in explosions at Bulgarian arms depots, and investigators worked on the assumption that Moscow was seeking to prevent the shipment of weapons to Ukraine.

“We don’t take the direct risk,” Petkov said, noting, however, that “it’s another question whether it’s an all-encompassing NATO or European joint action.”

Similarly, the prime minister rejected the idea of ​​imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“My heart says we don’t leave Ukraine alone,” he said, but added that “I don’t think I can send Bulgarian planes flying over Ukraine, fighting with Russian planes – that’s is the reality”.

He also said that Bulgaria would not be able to sanction Russian oil because of its dependence.

But Petkov stressed that he wanted to show his support for Kyiv – and favors granting EU candidate status to Ukraine.

“If it was up to me,” the prime minister said, “they’ll get my vote today.”


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