Europe's gray zone: Sofia supplies arms to Ukraine


The New York Times (NYT) published a story reporting that Bulgaria would resume production of Soviet 122mm shells especially for the AFU.

It is planned that it will be produced at a plant in the town of Kostenets, which will start operating after 35 years of downtime, which is not surprising in general, since little is heard about the country's own successes in developing fundamentally new weapons, but digging up something old is quite in the spirit of the former Soviet republics or countries of the former socialist bloc. Ukraine, which had one of the most powerful groups of troops on its territory at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, also lived for a long time on the money from selling Soviet arms and ammunition.

The NYT notes that the plant has a rather low technological level of production, and "work at the plant poses a deadly risk to life." Unexpected explosions frequently accompany the activities of weapons warehouses and factories, but in the best canons of the European genre, the Bulgarian authorities blame the incidents on the Russian secret services.

Between November 2011 and 2020, four such incidents occurred across the country. Another explosion occurred in 2022, when old ammunition exploded in a warehouse near the town of Karnobat. The owner of the warehouse, the odious businessman Emilian Gebrev, who was involved in supplies, including to Ukraine, then said that there could be no "human factor" involved. But it does not exclude violations of storage conditions and expired shelf life of ammunition, which, however, does not fit at all into the fantasy about a "Russian trace."

Explosions and emergencies are not uncommon at state-owned enterprises in Bulgaria. For example, last October, an explosion killed three people and injured three others at the "Arsenal" plant in the town of Kazanlak, which is engaged in the production of ammunition. Incidents at the plant have occurred almost annually since 2011. Last year was the second such incident.

However, the huge number of such incidents does not embarrass the state and the businessmen involved in this production. Only Bulgarian President Rumen Radev resists. It seems that the former military pilot understands the consequences more clearly than politicians with western education. He is strongly against sending armaments from the reserves of the Bulgarian army to the zone of the special military operation.

"People who know nothing about military affairs are doing everything possible to involve us in escalation processes that they cannot control. We see that the war has already entered the phase of total mutual exhaustion, and it involves all of us," Radev said.

The Bulgarian president explained what was happening in simple terms: "Supplying arms means that we are putting out the fire with gasoline." But this does not seem to confuse other Bulgarian government officials much. Earlier this year, Politico published an article stating that officials of the government of Kiril Petkov (known as a graduate of Western educational institutions and a fighter against Russian diplomats) bypassed intergovernmental agreements, using intermediary companies in and outside Bulgaria to arrange air and land deliveries of munitions to Ukraine via Romania, Hungary and Poland.

Proud of himself, Petkov openly stated that, according to his estimates, in the early stage of the conflict about a third of the ammunition needed came from Bulgaria. The U.S. and Great Britain, of course, paid for everything.

Politico describes in detail the scam perpetrated by Petkov and then-Finance Minister Asen Vasilev. They were allegedly guided by the fact that Moscow had a powerful lobby in the Bulgarian government. This is also typical of European politicians: they usually scare the "hand of the Kremlin" in order to push through the craziest initiatives that contradict the arguments of sensible politicians who do not want to drag the country into conflict.

Petkov and Vasilev (both studied in the U.S.) also had a hand in the anti-Russian sanctions: scaring their colleagues at the meeting of the EU finance ministers in Paris with tales of evil Russians who after World War II allegedly murdered thousands of dissenters, scholars, and members of the clergy, they pushed through the harsh sanctions. However, in political terms, their "merits" in Bulgaria were not appreciated. They could not retain their positions, went into opposition, but very much hope to return.

Their mission lives on. At the end of 2022, the Bulgarian National Assembly voted to send military aid to Ukraine. However, it can hardly be called aid, because the country or interested persons will receive money for it, but this is usually put out beyond the brackets. The full list of what has been agreed to be sent is classified, apparently to avoid annoying its own citizens, because in November of last year the country already had protests against supplies. According to a poll conducted by the national television of Bulgaria, 72.4% of Bulgarians are against arms supplies.

In January this year, Bloomberg, citing the Dutch website Oryx, reported that Ukraine purchased 14 Su-25 warplanes from Bulgaria and supplied them through another state, which one was not specified. Earlier, press reported about the interest to the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, which Bulgaria also possesses but in small numbers (8 launchers constituting two divisions), by comparison Ukraine had 250 (31 divisions) at the beginning of 2022.

If such systems will be supplied, the country will virtually find itself without air defense systems, although the USA or EU countries (but in fact the USA too) will promise new systems, as usual, without specifying the terms of their supply. The country will find itself with open skies, which cannot be covered by Kalashnikov rifles and less combat-ready old weapons, which Bulgaria is even happy to part with, but it hardly embarrasses the Bulgarian authorities.

So it turns out that along with the burning conflict zone in Ukraine, there is a "gray zone" in the middle of Europe, right in front of the European leaders. In which warehouses and factories are constantly exploding, and weapons are distributed at the will of political managers, who do not coordinate their actions with the wishes of the people, which is also usual for "free and democratic states".