Bulgaria’s president vetoes armoured vehicles for Ukraine

Bulgaria’s president vetoes armoured vehicles for Ukraine
Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev vetoed parliament’s decision to provide 100 armoured vehicles to Ukraine.
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia December 4, 2023

Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev on December 4 vetoed parliament’s decision to provide 100 armoured vehicles to Ukraine, claiming that lawmakers were not aware of all parameters of the donation, meaning they were unable to determine whether the vehicles are necessary for their country.

Radev won a second term with his loud criticisms of high-level corruption and was seen at the time as rather West-oriented. However, he has become openly pro-Russian since the start of the war in Ukraine. He fiercely opposes any military aid to Kyiv, claiming that the Bulgarian army has nothing spare to offer and that providing weapons would not contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

In July, Bulgarian MPs decided to provide 100 armoured vehicles from the reserve of the Ministry of Interior. The armoured personnel carriers, produced in the 1960s and 1970s, were acquired by Bulgaria’s communist-era Interior Military Forces – today’s Gendarmerie. They have never been used and are no longer needed by the interior ministry.

Radev’s veto seems doomed to fail as the parties that backed the decision in July said on December 4 they will vote against the veto.

“This veto shall be overcome so I do not see anything to comment on,” Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov said as quoted by public broadcaster BNT minutes after Radev’s decision was published.

In November, parliament ratified the contract on provision of the armoured vehicles, which Defence Minister Todor Tagarev said were only used in 1984-89 when the then Communist regime forcefully deported Bulgarians of Turkish origin.

The ratification of the contract was supported by Change Continues-Democratic Bulgaria, Gerb, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and There Are Such People (ITN), while the pro-Russian Vazrazhdane and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) voted against.

Radev claims that neither the wartime tasks assigned to the Ministry of Interior, nor the needs of the border police and fire bridgade were taken into account.

“The armoured offroad transport equipment provided to Ukraine could be used precisely for the protection of the Bulgarian border and for providing assistance to the population in disasters and accidents, including in hard-to-reach areas,” Radev said.

“I am led by the conviction that the security, health and life of the Bulgarian citizens should be a top priority,” he added.

Radev said that in several recent occasions the Ministry of Interior has asked the army for help – during floods in Karlovo and the southern Black Sea coast. He added that such cases are expected to occur more often, which requires the strengthening and not the weakening of Bulgarian military equipment.

Gerb commented in a statement on Facebook that Radev’s position was "inadequate and hypocritical".

“As a member of Nato and the EU, Bulgaria follows the position of the democratic world. And the majority in parliament has a clear and consistent Euro-Atlantic policy in support of Ukraine’s right to defend its citizens and territories. It is obvious that once again President Rumen Radev has demonstrated an inadequate position for a head of state of an EU and Nato country,” Gerb noted.

It added that sovereignty and stability cannot be achieved with divided institutions and different positions on geostrategic issues.

Delayn Peevski, leader of DPS’ parliamentary group, commented that Radev’s decision was "shameful" and that parliament should overturn the veto by the end of this week.

On the opposite side, the BSP’s leader Kornelia Ninova said that her party will support the veto.