Last Monday, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov demanded the resignation of Stefan Yanev, Bulgaria’s defense minister. The motion was put forward in parliament last Tuesday, where the vast majority of MPs voted for his resignation.
The reason for this is that Stefan Yanev was taking a pro-Russian stance during the conflict in Ukraine, refusing to call it a war, and preventing stationing of a large number of NATO troops in Bulgaria, leaving the country severely unprotected. There was an online petition, calling for Yanev’s resignation, which was probably also taken into consideration.
Petkov stated that “no minister has the right to his own foreign policy, particularly on Facebook”.
Yanev's words will rekindle long-held fears that Bulgaria is the EU's soft underbelly, where the Kremlin can push its agenda. The ties to Russia are strong, notably through the country's tainted underworld of oligarchs and former state security operatives who control considerable financial interests.
Unchecked Russian propaganda is also an issue in Bulgaria, and it is typical for Bulgarians to parrot the Russian view that US President Joe Biden caused the Ukraine war by refusing to cave to Putin's demands. Conspiracy theories and pro-Russian trolls are abundant in social media comments.
In southern Ukraine, Bulgaria has a substantial ethnic minority known as the Bessarabian Bulgarians, who date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
After the resignation of Yanev, the Bulgarian parliament voted on who is going to take his place. The vast majority of Bulgarian MPs voted to elect Dragomir Zakov, who is the country’s permanent representative to NATO.