Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova

The new interim government in Bulgaria wanted to improve relations with Moscow in order to get out of the energy crisis. Recently, the country has been one of the toughest critics of the Russian Federation, willingly joined the anti-Russian sanctions and declared dozens of Russian diplomats persona non grata. On Friday, August 5, Moscow decided to expel 14 employees of the Bulgarian embassy and consular offices in Russia in response to unfriendly actions. Whether the countries will be able to improve interaction – understood Izvestia.

Change of conditions

“Although there are currently no deliveries, negotiations are ongoing. We do not know how the correspondence will develop, but there is a possibility of resuming deliveries,” said Ivan Topchiysky, chairman of the board of directors of Bulgargaz.

According to him, we are talking about a contract concluded before the end of this year. “Perhaps they will change their conditions,” he expressed hope.

Prior to this, Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova said that Moscow was ready to restore gas supplies to Sofia, subject to the requirements of Gazprom.

Recently, relations between the two countries have been rather tense. Two years ago, Bulgaria halved the purchase of Russian blue fuel. It was decided to replace supplies with the help of American LNG and Azerbaijani gas via the TANAP gas pipeline. After that, a spy scandal broke out between the countries, Bulgaria repeatedly declared Russian diplomats persona non grata. On August 5, Moscow, in response, decided to send 14 employees of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission to Russia. In response, the consular service of Bulgaria in Russia decided to suspend indefinitely the acceptance of documents for tourist visas and visas for property owners.

Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova

Photo: RIA Novosti / Nina Zotina

The interaction is also complicated by the fact that the South Stream project was disrupted through the fault of the Bulgarian side. Under pressure from the EU and the US, the country abandoned the construction of a gas pipeline under the Black Sea. A serious blow was the suspension of cooperation in the midst of the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant, which led to proceedings in international arbitration.

Under the previous government, Bulgaria has become one of the most consistent supporters of anti-Russian sanctions and harsh critics of Moscow. Thus, the resigning Kiril Petkov forbade the opening of the sky for the plane of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, when he was about to fly on a visit to Belgrade.

He expelled 70 Russian diplomats on suspicion of espionage, and was also one of the first to refuse to pay for gas in rubles. “This has led to Moscow cutting off supplies to a country that is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas,” described situation Reuters.

In addition, despite the assurances of the Bulgarian authorities that they are neutral in the Ukrainian conflict, Sofia supplied Kyiv with lethal weapons. According to media reports, this was carried out through the mediation of some structures in the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria, in particular the former Minister of Economy Kornelia Ninova.

Impossible without Russian gas

After the change of power in Bulgaria, they again started talking about a possible normalization of relations with Russia. Currently, the country has a technical government that will work for two months. After that, the next parliamentary elections are scheduled – the fourth in the last two years.

It all started with the fact that the leader of the party “There is such a people” Slavi Trifonov announced his withdrawal from the party coalition, after which the parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the pro-Western government of Kiril Petkov. The vote was proposed to be held by deputies of the GERB party, headed by former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who is considered to be a pro-Russian politician in the EU. As a result, Petkov saw in this the machinations of Moscow.

After that, the three largest parties could not agree on the creation of a coalition government, they had to be content with a technical one – until the elections, which will be held on October 2. The current cabinet includes 20 ministers, headed by Gylyb Donev, who previously served as presidential adviser on demographic and social issues.

gas rubles

Photo: Izvestia/Alexander Kazakov

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev noted that the country is now going through difficult times: judicial reform is stalling, inflation is skyrocketing. In addition, gas shortages are not ruled out in winter. He noted that in a crisis, readiness for dialogue is necessary.

Donev immediately outlined the main tasks of his cabinet: overcoming the crisis, removing political tension, organizing fair elections, as well as “ensuring uninterrupted supplies of energy carriers and reducing their prices.” It is impossible to do this without returning to purchases of Russian gas.

With him I agree Bulgarian analyst Boyan Chukov. In his opinion, the new government of Bulgaria is faced with the task of “preventing risks to national security”, and this can only be done if Sofia resumes negotiations with Gazprom.

soften the stance

“The new government may soften its stance towards Russia, try to resume imports of Russian gas, as well as improve diplomatic relations with Moscow, spoiled by the outgoing government. The Donev government will have to decide whether to confirm the agreement of the Petkov government to import liquefied natural gas from the United States or look for other options,” reported Reuters.

The agency cites a public opinion poll that shows that Petkov’s coalition has little chance of forming a majority government in the upcoming elections, “support for nationalist and pro-Russian parties is growing.”

views of sophia

Photo: Global Look Press/Konrad Wothe

In turn, the sociological agency Alpha Research conducted another public opinion poll, as a result of which it turned out that in Bulgaria there is an approximately equal number of citizens who adhere to pro-European and pro-Russian views.

Both ours and yours

Bulgaria’s policy is often forced, situational and dependent, so it is difficult to say which line the new government will follow, said Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky, a senior researcher at IMEMO RAS, in an interview with Izvestia.

– The once former Prime Minister Borisov in Brussels regularly complained about Russia, and when he came to Moscow, he assured of traditional friendship and assured that he was forced to make anti-Russian statements almost by force. No unexpected changes in Bulgarian politics should be expected. The country believes that they cannot afford an independent position. The process of consolidating NATO countries to pursue an anti-Russian policy has gone very far, and although the Europeans as a whole already understand that the costs and risks of cooperation with the United States are much higher than the dwindling benefits, no one dares to break the harmony of the ranks. Not everyone can even afford to contact Russia now, the expert explained.

According to him, Bulgarian politicians cannot follow the example of the Hungarian leader Viktor Orban – not the will, not the charisma and not the ability to defend the interests of their country. In addition, Bulgarian politicians are mired in internal conflicts, and now they are more concerned not with solving problems, but with shifting blame on each other.

bulgaria lion money

Photo: TASS/YAY/[email protected]

– Now there are two issues at the center of domestic political discussions: the coming energy crisis and the supply of weapons to Ukraine. In the first four months, the Bulgarians supplied 4,200 tons of weapons: first to Poland, and then from there it came to Ukraine. The former government is now accused of having a corrupt interest in this story, receiving commissions and withdrawing these funds offshore. In Bulgaria, now is the time of political scandals – the previous government did not lead a very successful economic policy, but everyone understands that it will only get worse. Therefore, those who have replaced them now, and this is the interim government, are trying to justify why their predecessors are to blame for the crisis,” the specialist said.

He noted that an interdepartmental crisis headquarters for energy has been created in Bulgaria, but at the moment the problem is not that some unique solution has not yet been found, but that there are no funds to pay for fuel. Bulgaria theoretically has different options for gas supplies: the country itself cannot accept tankers with LNG, so terminals with slots for unloading will have to be rented from someone. You can get gas from Greece, but Athens also needs to get it from somewhere. There is a European contract with Baku, but Azerbaijani gas has quadrupled in price since the conclusion of the contract. With regard to any of these options, it is important to understand that if there is a shortage of natural gas on the market, then Bulgaria will be the last in line for a shortage, the expert believes.

Competition without rules

– There are no rules in this competition, as it was at one time with the gas pipeline project through the territory of Bulgaria – the Germans banned its construction, and then they themselves began work on the Nord Stream. Energy supply issues should have been dealt with in March of this year, the deadline is in April, now it is already very late. The gas storage facility in Chiren is only 50% full. The option of resuming Gazprom supplies would be optimal for the Bulgarians, Officers-Belsky is sure.

Deliveries were stopped due to Bulgaria’s refusal to pay for them in rubles at the end of April. But the gas industry is very complex and involves long-term planning of production volumes, routes, investments and many technical issues.

north stream

Photo: REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

— She can’t work on demand as a restaurant musician. The Europeans as a whole have become very unreliable and inadequate partners – they say they are going to reduce the consumption of Russian gas to a minimum, but within the time frame that suits them. “We will refuse your gas, but we are not ready yet, many issues need to be resolved for this, so for now, continue to supply,” the logic looks exactly like this and it cannot suit any supplier. The influence of President Radev is growing, he now has more real power than formally assumed. His attitude towards Russia has always been more benevolent than that of most Bulgarian politicians. But I do not think that now it will play some fundamental role. It is impossible to build a policy even on sincere benevolence, if it is accompanied by unfriendly actions,” the political scientist explained.

A similar position is held by Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of St. Petersburg State University Natalya Eremina.

— Bulgaria does not have that amount of sovereignty in making foreign policy decisions to independently resolve the issue of energy security. After all, there was an idea to lay a pipeline through Bulgaria, but it was rejected. Consistent support for all anti-Russian sanctions that are introduced under the influence of NATO and the EU, the recent scandal with the expulsion of diplomats are also related to this. Sophia relies not on her own ideas about what is happening, but on how it is seen from Washington and Brussels. That is why Bulgaria will not be able to resolve the issues of energy security on its own, – the political scientist is sure.

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