site.btaUPDATED Parliament Approves Provision of Additional Military Aid to Ukraine
At a closed-door sitting on Wednesday, Parliament voted 141-40, with three abstentions, to approve a resolution on the provision of additional military aid to Ukraine. The aid consists of defective 5V55R surface-to-air missiles owned by the Defence Ministry and rounds of 5.56x45 mm-calibre automatic-weapon ammunition which have been discarded by the Interior Ministry.
Those in favour were 57 MPs of GERB-UDF, 50 MPs of Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) and 34 MPs of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). Those against were 34 MPs of Vazrazhdane, 5 MPs of There Is Such a People (TISP) and one independent. Three MPs of TISP abstained. BSP for Bulgaria walked out of the plenary.
The resolution obligates the Council of Ministers to take the necessary actions.
The draft resolution was tabled by Boyko Borissov and Hristo Gadzhev of GERB-UDF, Hristo Ivanov, Ivaylo Mirchev, and Kiril Petkov of CC-DB, and Delyan Peevski of the MRF.
Attending the debate were the Chief of Defence, Admiral Emil Eftimov, and the Deputy Commander of the Air Force, Brigadier General Petyo Mirchev.
During the open part of the debate, the sponsors of the draft resolution on additional aid to Ukraine, CC-DB and GERB-UDF, stated that the missiles were defective and unusable. In contrast, Vazrazhdane and the Bulgarian Socialist Party made accusations of national betrayal and claimed that the 5V55R anti-aircraft missiles provided "the most advanced protection available to the Bulgarian armed forces".
GERB-UDF's Hristo Gadzhev, head of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, said Bulgaria will provide anti-aircraft missile systems which are malfunctioning and cannot be used by the Bulgarian Armed Forces. He said the weapons in question are more than 30 years old. The minimum number that is planned for sending cannot be to the detriment of the Air Force, Gadzhev assured. The MP suggested that the discussion should focus on buying new systems rather than arguing about the old ones. He said that sending the defunct systems removes the risk of storing them in this country and added that there is a large amount of ammunition, NATO-calibre automatic weapons, which the Interior Ministry had acquired and can also be sent to Ukraine.
Socialist MP Atanas Zafirov told a news briefing of his parliamentary group after the debate that the draft resolution envisages the provision of unserviceable anti-aircraft guided missiles to Ukraine, but that it remained unclear during the debate what "unserviceable" means. "The BSP for Bulgaria walked out of the sitting in protest, in confirmation of our position that this is an extreme form of national treason and irresponsible conduct on the part of the draft resolution's sponsors, the political leadership, but that does not mean that we will not continue with all permitted forms of protest and political actions allowed by the law to prevent this act from being committed," Zafirov said. The Socialists were also dissatisfied with how the representatives of the military leadership stated the facts during the debate.
BSP leader Korneliya Ninova said that the military leadership said they do not know what and how much will be given to Ukraine. They should not be held responsible, because what is required of them is only to report on what Bulgaria has; they have fulfilled their duties and from there onwards, the decision rests with the government and the political leadership, she argued. In her words, that is frighteningly alarming, because it would mean that high-ranking service persons have no idea what is happening in the State when it comes to the aid for Ukraine.
Ninova argued further that the way the draft resolution is formulated, it basically hands the government a blank cheque to decide what and how much to give. "We have an alternative proposal: there should be a classified annex to the resolution that lists the exact numbers being given," she said. The Socialists claim that this is a national security threat, that is why they left the plenary hall.
Vazrazhdane floor leader Kostadin Kostadinov labelled as a lie the claim that the manufacturer defined the missiles as defective. He proceeded to call politicians of the ruling parties war criminals and accused them of high treason.
Aleksandar Valchev of TISP said his group proposed a split vote on the draft resolution, as the party only supports the donation of ammunition from the Interior Ministry. "We are not convinced that giving these missiles will in any way strengthen our defence," Valchev said. He concluded that these missiles could be useful for Bulgaria's defence, which is why they should not be donated.
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms did not participate in the open part of the debate. Delyan Peevski said after the vote that those are defective missiles and Bulgaria does not need them.