SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria should send military aid to Ukraine, the parliament decided on Thursday, giving the caretaker government one month to come up with a plan for what weapons the Black Sea country could send to support Kyiv.
At present, Bulgaria is one of the few European Union countries not sending military aid to Ukraine, after the Russia-friendly Socialist party, a coalition partner in the previous government, blocked such a decision in May.
Caretaker Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov also told reporters on Thursday Bulgaria cannot afford to send its Soviet-made anti-aircraft missile systems or fighter jets, which Kyiv wants, because they could not be replaced quickly.
However, with 175 votes “for” and 49 “against” on a six point plan, lawmakers approved the military aid in principal and decided the cabinet needed to launch talks with Bulgaria’s NATO allies to replace or boost its defence capabilities and allow for a faster freeing up of its Soviet-era military equipment.
It was not immediately clear what military aid could be sent or how soon it can 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 cannot not be given at this point. We would need replacing equipment first,” Stoyanov said.
Georg Georgiev, a lawmaker from centre-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 but officials have said that they cannot control what buyers, mainly from EU countries, do with exports bought from the country.
Bulgarian arms exports have more than doubled since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a recent report by the Bulgarian Industrial Association showed.
In August, the economy ministry approved arms export deals worth over 1 billion levs ($498.31 million), the majority of which were destined for Poland – one of the key hubs for sending weapons to Ukraine.
($1 = 2.0068 leva)