site.btaUPDATED Ammunition Round Carried by Fallen Drone Safely Disposed Of on Site at Bulgarian Coastal Village
Five specialists from the Bulgarian Naval Base in Varna have safely disposed of a round of ammunition that was found on Sunday night near Tyulenovo, the Defence Ministry said in a press release on Monday.
An inspection of the round, which proved to be an 82 mm mortar projectile with fragmentation and blast effect, found it to be severely damaged. Removal for safe disposal to another location was impossible, and the ammunition was therefore destroyed by controlled explosion on site, in a sealed-off area with a radius of 150 m, at 11:00 a.m. on Monday.
The ammunition was found attached to the debris of a drone that was found on the rocks at the boat mooring in Tyulenovo, of which the authorities were alerted around 10 p.m. on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said on Monday morning. Police cordoned off the site 20 minutes later, awaiting the arrival of the bomb disposal squad, who left Varna at 6:10 a.m. and reached the site at 9 a.m. on Monday.
The Navy team were activated on order from the Chief of Defence, Admiral Emil Eftimov, at the request of Dobrich Regional Governor Yordanka Kostadinova.
The Regional Administration said that the controlled explosion did not cause any damage.
"The drone at Tyulenovo is presumably linked to the war that Russia started against Ukraine," Bulgarian Defence Minister Todor Tagarev commented to journalists. "This war heightens the risks to our security," he added. He noted that Russia is bombing Ukrainian ports that are located just several hundred metres from, say, the territory of Romania. "We should make no mistake that this war will go around us in any way. Yes, Bulgaria is exposed to risks," Tagarev added.
The Defence Minister said that the drone had not been detected by Bulgaria's air defence radars and the time and manner of its arrival are unknown because of its very small size and low flying altitude.
Asked whether convening the government's Security Council is warranted, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov said he will consult experts on where the drone came from. In his words, if the drone fell far away in the sea and then was washed ashore, there are obviously no risks, but if it is proved that it flew near the Bulgarian coast, this obviously gives rise to definite risks.
Earlier on Monday, former interior minister and explosives expert Valentin Radev described the round as "an improvised explosive device" that should be handled with utmost care, as the half of kilo or so of TNT it contains and the fuse were hardly deactivated by the water. If the projectile goes off, the fragments have a damaging capability within up to 300 m, Radev explained on Nova TV.
For his part, former defence minister Velizar Shalamanov said in the same show that the incident raises the need to modernize Bulgaria's aerial surveillance system. "It is far more important to maintain constant communication, including with the Ukrainians," he argued.
Shalamanov insisted that "nobody can guarantee that this is the last such case and that more serious risks will not arise." He called for a full-scale investigation with the assistance of Ukraine and the NATO observation systems. "Clearly, we need a stronger civil protection system and interaction among various institutions."
Aviation expert Dimitar Stavrev assumes that the drone is Ukrainian but left to experts to determine its origin after examining the markings on its fuselage.
Former defence minister Angel Naydenov, too, said that there are sufficient signs and numbers on the fuselage to identify the origin of the aircraft. "Is it a Russian drone used to attack Ukrainian ports or a Ukrainian drone used to attack Crimea? It cannot be said yet. Incidents and risks to settlements in the countries near Ukraine cannot be ruled out from the first day of the war. Eyewitnesses say that the drone floated on the water before being washed up," he said on National Radio.
Approached for comment, BSP leader Korneliya Ninova said the fallen drone is a sign of "absolute irresponsibility and an absent State". She was indignant that no one reacted promptly because it was dark. Besides, the disposal involved a policeman who was smoking nearby and another who was wading in the water, slipping on the stones and touching the drone to see if it moved. Ninova urged the Defence Minister to resign. Asked if there is a risk to national security, Ninova answered in the affirmative. "We are several hundred kilometres away from the battlefield, one could have expected that such a thing would happen, so again we call on both sides to end the hostilities and seek a negotiated solution," she said.
GERB leader Boyko Borissov commented that the drone near Tyulenovo reminded him of the Vera Su, the Panamanian-flagged ship Vera Su, which ran aground off the Bulgarian Black Sea coast in September 2021. Borissov said Tagarev should not resign. "I respect him but when he talks to the media he must be really prepared. This is a sensitive subject and speculation should be avoided. In such cases one should work and talk very responsibly," Borissov said.
Delyan Peevski MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms told reporters he expected the Defence Committee to give a hearing to Tagarev about the fallen drone on Monday.