Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov came under fire on Tuesday for his rhetoric about a charity fund for Ukraine he launched, amid growing demands for state support for incoming Ukrainian refugees.
On Monday afternoon, Petkov said that as the country’s coalition government tried to build political consensus on whether to send additional military aid to Ukraine, the public could take the initiative.
“I am opening a public campaign to raise financial funds for the Ukrainian government. I call on all Bulgarian citizens who really want to help Ukraine to donate their monthly salary, as I did,” he said.
The move was condemned by political commentators and other politicians as tone-deaf, as more than a million Bulgarians live below the poverty line and disrespectful to people who have previously donated or hosted Ukrainians. on the run.
Meanwhile, activists working in places near the border with Romania have demanded more state support to deal with the influx of refugees.
“It was not well thought out. Bulgaria has enough resources to participate if the state decides to do so and we should not ask citizens to pay for this with their own salaries,” MP Stanislav Balabanov told Bulgarian national radio.
There’s Such People party leader Slavi Trifonov was tougher, calling the campaign “monstrous stupidity”.
“People should donate to save lives, not guns; this is a job for the state, not for ordinary people,” Trifonov said on social media on Tuesday.
Petkov did not respond to criticism. Despite the rather negative response in Bulgaria, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who visited Sofia last week, expressed his gratitude for the decision and tweeted: “This decision demonstrates genuine Bulgarian solidarity with Ukraine.”
Delegation from Sofia visiting kyiv
Prime Minister Petkov, co-leader of the We Continue Change party, will travel to Kyiv on Wednesday at the invitation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, accompanied by several government officials.
The Bulgarian delegation is expected to include Stanislav Balabanov from There’s Such People and Kaloyan Ikonomov from We Continue the Change.
It is unclear whether the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which opposes sanctions against Russia and military aid to Ukraine, will send a representative.
The question of whether Bulgaria should send not only helmets, jackets and humanitarian aid, but also weapons has divided the ruling coalition.
Members of We Continue the Change, Democratic Bulgaria and There’s Such People have backed the idea, but the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the fourth in the coalition, strongly opposes it.
Tuesday afternoon, the leaders of the four parties will debate the subject in the Ministerial Council.
Local media have also reported the possibility that Bulgaria has indeed sent arms via third countries and the reason why the process has not been officially started is the reluctance of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
“Bulgaria is, in fact, one of the largest arms exporters to Ukraine,” a Capital Weekly article said on Tuesday.
According to official sources, Bulgaria concluded arms contracts worth some 316 million euros between February 20 and April 13, most of them with Denmark, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany , Spain, Slovenia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Estonia. .
“Since Western Europe has little need for our old Soviet-era arsenal that was produced by Bulgarian factories, it can be said with great certainty that the increase in exports is destined for Ukraine. . According to unofficial information, military aid to Ukraine goes mainly through Poland,” the article said.
“It’s nothing new that Bulgaria has been exporting weapons for decades, but their final destination is not something the state can take care of,” MP Kaloyan Ikonomov said in a TV interview on Tuesday. .
Kornelia Ninova of the Bulgarian Socialist Party denied reports that Bulgarian-made weapons had ever been used in the war.
A demonstration calling on Bulgaria to send additional military aid and support Ukraine more openly is scheduled for April 28 in Sofia.