Connect with us

Bulgaria

Caretaker Bulgarian president conceals ecological disaster in the Black Sea

SHARE:

Published

on

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you've consented to and to improve our understanding of you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

There is criminal inaction and incompetence in Bulgaria, citizens and the media do the work of the government. A ship transporting nitrogen fertilisers Vera SU stuck on rocks off Bulgarian Black Sea coast on 20. September, not far from Kavarna. The vessel is under the Panamanian flag and sailed from Ukraine to the Bulgarian port of Varna. Check up in the Equasis system indicates that it is owned and managed by based in Turkey companies. According to experts, the most likely cause of the accident was human error.   

No casualties have occurred among the crew, which consists of Turkish and Georgian citizens. There is no fuel or waste spill in conjunction with the incident, according to the initial information of the Bulgarian authorities. The ship was guarded by Border Police and it was closely examined the crew not to leave. And there was nothing to suggest that such an incident could show the emasculation of the Bulgarian caretaker government, appointed by President Rumen Radev. Whether due to incompetence or simple negligence, for days no one paid attention to the cargo ship loaded with nitrogen fertilisers stranded off the shores of the National Archaeological Reserve Yailata.

Even as early as 21 September, it was known that there were holes in the hull of the vessel, and there were 20 tons of fuel and 3 000 tons of nitrogen fertiliser - carbamide on board. But the institutions only announced that the ship was in stable condition and there was no danger of fuel spill. Everyone was silent about the spill of nitrogen fertilisers in the sea, while fishermen and locals were worried about an environmental disaster. However, no ministry took any action. Instead of unshipping it, they tied it with ropes to the nearby rock to strengthen it.

The civil eco-association “Let's Save Coral” published photos, which clearly showed that the ship had several holes, from which there was a spill. Probably large part of the cargo fell into the sea, environmentalists suggest. They never received any responses by the state authorities. The answers were given by a citizen - the former military diver, owner of a diving school, Nayden Nedev. Five days after the incident, he made an inspection independently from the institutions. And he alarmed: fertilisers are leaking into the sea. He even suggested how the unload the ship through mobile boats.

Advertisement

Nedev’s findings were released by the media. It became clear that despite assurances from the caretaker government that everything was under control, there was a spill. And namely spill of the most concentrated nitrogen fertilisers.

The Ministry of Environment and Water transferred the responsibility to the shipowner and the insurer, and Minister Assen Lichev assured that the sea water does not deviate from the norms. Pressed by media publications and public pressure, it was only on the sixth day that Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev signed an order for state structures to begin “immediate actions to release the stranded ship Vera SU”.

Although the owners of 53 fishing vessels from the Black Sea Sunrise Association have declared their willingness to participate in the operation of unloading and drawing out the cargo ship “Vera Su”, the caretaker government has created enormous scandal.

Advertisement

And it would have remained hidden, and the Black Sea “fed” with 3 000 tons of carbamide, if there was not the camera of one media - Maritime.bg. On the night of 27 September, the fertiliser overload began. Livestreaming on Facebook of the media showed how in fact at least 40% of the cargo was dumped into the sea. The video went viral on social media and other medias, and apparent incompetence forced the caretaker government to seek justification. A scapegoat was found in the person of the director of the Maritime Administration, Captain Zhivko Petrov. The transport minister even suspected sabotage, but assured that several action plans had been prepared and the rescue of the ship had been ensured. And the ministries have started waiting for a “window” in which the weather will allow them to implement them, but there has not been such window up to this day.

Until now, the government of Bulgarian president Rumen Radev has not even sought assistance from the European institutions. At the same time, he makes meaningless statements, briefings and vain assurances. Interdepartmental meetings set out measures to release the stranded ship. Meanwhile, Bulgarian authorities have restricted access to the reserve area for media and visitors so that no one has visual access to the ship.

18 days after it ran aground off the shores of the nature reserve, the ship has visibly begun to sink. While the Minister of Transport was justifying himself with European law, he still had to admit that the condition of “VERA SU” was critical and the vessel was sinking. The Minister of Ecology continues to assure that there is no danger of pollution, even if all the cargo goes to sea.

Denitsa Sacheva, former Minister of Labour and Social Policy and deputy of GERB in the 45th and 46th National Assembly, alerted about the problem and the inaction of the institutions in the first days. „In the beginning, the cargo from the ship was a threat. Now the Ministry of Environment and Water claims the opposite without a study of the substance. The analysis would take maximum one day. In the end, it will be beneficial for the environment for the ship to sink”, she said. According to her, the lack of the most basic actions is indicative of the level of government not only in this crisis situation, but for the level of governing in general.

The Bulgarian EPP member of the European Parliament Emil Radev asked the European Commission whether the Bulgarian government has activated the Protection Mechanism, which allows to request support in a crisis situation from our partners in the EU.

What will be the fate of the ship and its cargo, what damage will do the sinking of 3 000 tons of carbamide in the Black Sea to the ecosystem, fisheries and tourism in the region, which provide livelihoods for tens of thousands of people - are the questions to which the caretaker government gives no answers so far. Because they will shine the huge crime that the interim government appointed by President Rumen Radev committed against the Black Sea and the people in the region.

Share this article:

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Bulgaria

Radev’s win brings more worry than glory to Bulgaria’s western allies

Published

on

After the dust settled and Rumen Radev (pictured) got re-elected president of Bulgaria, concerns start to emerge regarding his close ties to Russia, writes Cristian Gherasim.

Earlier this week, the United States has expressed deep concern over comments by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev that the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 is "Russian".

The socialist candidate Rumen Radev won his second term as president of Bulgaria with 64-66% of the vote, compared to 32-33% for Anastas Gerdzhikov

Gherdjikov , backed by former PM Borisov center right coalition, promised to unite the country, which has been hit hard by crises caused in particular by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising energy prices. Bulgaria is facing the worst political crisis since the end of communism three decades ago.

Advertisement

In Bulgaria, the president has an eminently ceremonial role, but offers a solid platform to influence public opinion, particularly on the foreign policy arena.

In February 2017, Radev condemned and called for an end to the EU sanctions against Russia, while at the same time describing the Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation as a "violation of international law".

Radev also became the only EU head of state to attend Erdogan's inauguration, stating that his mandate was not given to him by either the European Commission or the Bulgarian Government, but by the Bulgarian people.

Advertisement

In 2019 he condemned EU’s recognition of opposition forces in Venezuela. Radev further criticised the EU's recognition of Guaido, urging both the country and the EU to remain neutral and refrain from recognizing Guaido, as he viewed such recognition as imposing an ultimatum, which he deemed would only aggravate the crisis in Venezuela.

In a presidential debate prior to his re-election, Radev referred to Crimea as "currently Russian" and called on Brussels to restore dialogue with Russia, arguing that Western sanctions against Moscow were not working. In his victory speech he pledged to keep close ties with Bulgaria's NATO allies, but has also called for a pragmatic relationship with Russia.

In a stamen issued by the US Embassy in Sofia, the US showed that it is deeply concerned by the recent statements of Bulgarian President in which he referred to Crimea as "Russian”.

"The United States, G7, European Union, and NATO have all been clear and united in our position that, despite Russia's attempted annexation and ongoing occupation, Crimea is Ukraine", the statement reads.

Radev's comments on Crimea have prompted protests from Ukraine and strong criticism from his opponents at home. Russian-backed separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine in 2014, the same year Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

This comes on the backdrop of increasing Russian activity in Ukraine’s vicinity. For several days now, Western espionage has become increasingly convinced that Vladimir Putin is trying to break a piece of Ukrainian territory. Moreover, the head of Ukrainian military espionage even advanced the date when Russia would prepare a heavy attack -"end of January or beginning of February" 2022. The increasing belligerent attitude from Moscow can be seen in the light of the new US National Security Strategy that President Joe Biden will present to the US Congress in December. This document could also include an important chapter on Washington's military strategy in the Black Sea region.

Also a week ago a study by GLOBSEC Policy Institute, a Bratislava based thin-thank focused on international politics and security issues shows that Bulgaria is amongst the countries most susceptible to Russian and Chinese influence. The index follows a two-year project backed by the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, analyzing vulnerable points, targeted by foreign influence, in eight countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia.

Serbia is the most vulnerable to Russian and Chinese influence and receives 66 points out of 100. The second most vulnerable is Hungary with 43 points, and the third is Bulgaria with 36 points. It is followed by Montenegro with 33, the Czech Republic with 28, Slovakia with 26, the Republic of Northern Macedonia with 25 and Romania with 18 is the least subject to foreign influence.

“The countries that we assessed are from Central, Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans region. Out of these, the Czech Republic and Romania are the most resilient.”, said Dominika Hajdu, the head of GLOBSEC’s Centre for Democracy & Resilience and one of the authors of the study.

China has been targeting repeatedly the region of Western Balkans trying to increase its clout. According to specialists, Chinese leaders seek to increase influence in states that do not yet enforce EU law.

Beijing in trying to secure various resources even in some EU member states. China's recent actions highlight, for example, the interest in transforming the ports of Piraeus (Greece) and Zadar (Croatia) into hubs for China's trade with Europe. To the same end, an agreement was signed to build a high-speed railway between Budapest and Belgrade, which would connect with the port of Piraeus, thus consolidating the access of Chinese products to Europe.

China’s influence is a growing one, Russia’s is more prevalent in the wider region, being a presence better understood whereas China is an enigma potentially able to disrupt the political and civic systems in the region, the study shows. In the Western Balkans, for example, Russia is more interested in disrupting the EU-NATO integration process there.

“The most vulnerable countries are mostly those that have closer bilateral relations with Russia and have societies that are more pro-Russian and favourable to a pro-Russian narrative,” Dominika Hajdu of GLOBSEC believes.

Share this article:

Continue Reading

Bulgaria

Bulgaria bus crash: Children among at least 45 killed

Published

on

At least 45 people, including 12 children, have died after a bus crashed and caught fire in western Bulgaria, officials say.

The incident happened on a motorway at about 2h local time (00h00 GMT) (24 November) near the village of Bosnek, south-west of the capital Sofia.

The bus was registered in North Macedonia and was carrying tourists returning from Turkey.

Seven people escaped from the bus and were taken to hospital with burns.

Advertisement

A Bulgarian interior ministry official said it was unclear if the bus had caught fire and then crashed or burst into flames after crashing.

Officials said the vehicle appeared to have hit a highway barrier and pictures showed a section of the road where the barrier had been shorn off.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani told reporters the coach party had been returning to the capital Skopje from a weekend holiday trip to the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Advertisement

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev spoke to one of the survivors, who told him that passengers were sleeping when the sound of an explosion woke them.

"He and the other six survivors broke the windows of the bus and managed to escape and save themselves," Mr Zaev told Bulgarian media.

An investigator takes a picture of the wreckage of a bus with North Macedonian plates that caught fire on a highway
Part of the motorway barrier was destroyed in the crash

Bulgaria's interim Prime Minister Stefan Yanev described the incident as "a huge tragedy".

"Let's hope we learn lessons from this tragic incident and we can prevent such incidents in the future," he told reporters as he visited the site of the crash.

The area around the site of Tuesday's incident on the Struma motorway has now been sealed off. Footage from the scene shows the charred vehicle, gutted by the fire.

After arriving at the scene, Bulgarian Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said the victims had been completely burned, television station BTV reports.

Investigative service chief Borislav Sarafov said "human error by the driver or a technical malfunction are the two initial versions for the accident".

Map
line

Share this article:

Continue Reading

Bulgaria

Ukraine queries Bulgarian president’s ‘Crimea is Russian’ remark

Published

on

Ukraine has criticised Rumen Radev's remark in a TV presidential election debate that 'Crimea is Russian', warning that it could damage relations with Bulgaria.

Ukraine summoned the Bulgarian ambassador, Kostadin Kodzhabashev, to the Foreign Ministry in Kyiv on Friday (19 November) to voice concern about Bulgarian President Rumen Radev’s comments that Crimea legitimately belongs to Russia.

Russian forcibly annexed the Ukrainian territory in 2014 and neither the US nor the EU have recognised this act.

“The words of the current Bulgarian president do not contribute to the development of good neighbourly relations between Ukraine and Bulgaria and are sharply dissonant with Sofia’s official position on supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders,” the Foreign Ministry’s statement said. 

Advertisement

Radev made the remark during a TV debate between him and his centre-right opponent, Anastas Gerdjikov, ahead of the presidential runoff on Sunday.

Radev is expected to be re-elected after winning 49.4 per cent of votes cast in the first round.

When questioned by Gerdjikov about whether he regrets his criticism of EU sanctions on Russia, imposed after the 2014 annexation, Radev responded: “Crimea is Russian, what else can it be?”

Advertisement

He has not yet issued a response to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s complaint.

As he did in 2016, Radev is running for the presidency as an independent candidate, supported by the pro-Russian Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Gerdjikov is also running as an independent candidate, but is backed by former PM Boyko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party.

Gerdjikov also received criticism following his TV appearance, not over Ukraine but for allegedly underestimating the need for reforms, following years of GERB’s dominance of local politics, during which time it became associated with numerous controversies and corruption claims. 

Radev may be strengthened further by the victory in the legislative elections of a newcomer party, “We Continue the Change”, formed by two ministers that he appointed this year to the interim government.

The party topped the popular vote in the repeat general elections of 14 November with 25.7% of votes cast, ahead of GERB. The party is currently holding coalition talks with Democratic Bulgaria, “There is Such a Nation” and the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Share this article:

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending