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Bulgaria to supply air defense systems and missiles to Ukraine

As reported by BTA on December 7, 2023, the Bulgarian parliamentary defense committee voted to supply Ukraine with malfunctioning anti-aircraft missile systems and various types of anti-aircraft missiles. The decision, with 11 votes in favor, four against, and one abstention, has generated discussions within Bulgaria's political landscape.
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A 9K33 Osa air defense system of the Bulgarian Armed Forces during the Shabla 2019 joint exercise with the US Army. (Picture source: US DoD)

As of the available information up to 2022, the surface-to-air missile systems equipment within Bulgarian Forces comprises various systems, including the 9K32 Strela (SA-7 Grail), 9K33 Osa (SA-8 Gecko), S-200 (SA-5 Gammon), S-300PMU (SA-10 Grumble), S-125M Neva-M (SA-3 Goa), and 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful).

This move is part of a broader proposal for increased military support to Ukraine, jointly presented by political groups GERB-SDS, "Continuing Change - Democratic Bulgaria," and DPS. The proposal primarily focuses on identifying surplus armaments and equipment within Bulgaria's inventory to equip Ukraine's wartime units adequately. It also calls for diplomatic negotiations with NATO allies to explore the possibility of deploying allied anti-aircraft and coastal anti-ship missile systems on Bulgarian soil to enhance the country's defense capabilities.

Additionally, the proposal instructs the Ministry of Defense to take steps to join a coalition of nations aimed at improving the capabilities of the Ukrainian Air Force, particularly in the use of F-16 aircraft, enabling joint training and Ukrainian military access to Bulgarian airspace.

In a notable provision, the draft decision authorizes the temporary presence of up to four infantry/mechanized companies annually on Bulgarian territory for training purposes, comprising a maximum of 160 Ukrainian military personnel.

However, the draft decision faced considerable debate during the committee's meeting, with members from the "BSP for Bulgaria" and "Vazrazhdane" political groups expressing their reservations. They questioned the timing and urgency of the proposal.

Deputy Minister of Defense Atanas Zapryanov faced questions from fellow committee members about the specific weapons being provided. He acknowledged that many colleagues were unaware of the details but emphasized that the decision was based on a long-standing effort to address malfunctioning missile systems.

Deputy Minister Zapryanov explained that the equipment in question was beyond repair within Bulgaria, emphasizing his support for the decision based on personal conviction rather than external pressures.

This decision follows Bulgaria's recent ratification of an agreement between the Bulgarian Interior Ministry and Ukraine's Ministry of Defence, which involved the donation of 100 armored personnel carriers (APCs) and corresponding armaments and spare parts to Ukraine, all provided at no cost. Additionally, Bulgaria's assistance to Ukraine included a previous secretive vote on September 27, 2023, to supply unserviceable S-300 missiles, along with surplus 5.45mm cartridges.


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