Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov will take members of his government coalition to Ukraine this week amid an ongoing row over voting on military aid for Kyiv that has shaken his cabinet.
A coalition council late Tuesday confirmed that Petkov and representatives of three of the four parties in the ruling coalition — all except the Socialists — will leave for Poland on Wednesday on their way to Kyiv overnight Thursday.
“We’ll meet with (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky,” delegation member Stanislav Balabanov told reporters, without providing further details.
Petkov invited his coalition partners to accompany him to Kyiv in a bid to overcome the pro-Russia Socialists’ opposition to providing military aid to Ukraine, as the party threatened to topple the cabinet if such a decision were approved.
“I hope that… everyone will take a step back and will consider how important Bulgaria’s stability is and how important this is for the Ukrainians,” Petkov, who favours giving military aid, told Nova television in an interview last Friday.
But the Socialists decided earlier Tuesday not to send a representative in the delegation, with their leader Kornelia Ninova telling BNT television the visit was “pointless” and “would hardly change our position” against arms donations.
Bulgaria has remained one of the last hold-outs in the EU in turning down Ukraine’s requests for direct military aid.
This remained the case even after Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba made a three-day visit to Sofia last week, urging the country “to make a choice” and provide military support.
The Balkan country, which traditionally has close ties with Russia, is a big manufacturer of Soviet-era ammunition, anti-tank missiles and light arms.
Media reports suggested Bulgarian arms might already be reaching Kyiv through other EU members and the United States, as the country’s exports tripled over the past two months compared with the same period last year.
The government has not denied the reports and Socialist leader Ninova, who as economy minister controls all arms export licenses, told BNT on Tuesday it was “possible” for Bulgarian arms to get to Ukraine “in this way”.
But she also repeated that as a minister she “will not sign any export of arms and ammunition to Ukraine”.
The coalition will debate the question again after the delegation’s return from Kyiv, Balabanov said Tuesday.
The government’s poor handling of the military aid issue has sparked much criticism.
Petkov was widely mocked on Monday when he launched a public campaign on Facebook to raise funds for the Ukrainian army, calling on Bulgarians tired of waiting for political consensus “to donate a salary like I did” in a Ukrainian government bank account.