On the first day of his Moscow visit Bulgarian President Rumen Radev was received today (21 May) by Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev. He will meet Putin tomorrow.
Radev is a former pilot of Russian MIG 29 jet fighter, the best military aircraft Bulgaria has. He is fluent in Russian, stresses he worked as a NATO general and his loyalty stays with Bulgaria’s allies, but he also says he is in favour of dialogue with Russia.
Medvedev was quoted as saying that Russia is expecting Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to visit Russia soon and expressed hope that the intensity of official Russian-Bulgarian contacts will grow.
The Russian Prime Minister pointed out that the peoples of both countries are connected with the strong bonds of friendship and spiritual closeness. He also stressed the need to step up trade and economic cooperation, “because lately the trade between our two countries is unfortunately not growing but rather declining.”
For his part, Radev said:
“Russia has always been a strategic partner in the energy sector as a supplier of natural gas, oil and nuclear fuel as a participant in the maintenance and modernization of energy facilities and capacities in Bulgaria, and security of energy supply is extremely important for both Bulgaria and the EU. I hope that our governments will also review the possibility of direct supply of gas from Russia through the Black Sea”.
Bulgaria hopes that the second pipe of the “Turkish Stream” pipeline, under another name (possibly “Balkan” or “Bulgarian Stream”), will reach Varna, instead of the European territory of Turkey.
Radev further said that in the recent weeks, the Bulgarian government “has emerged from lethargy” with regard to energy projects with Russian participation.
“You know that there are already announcements for the restart of the Belene nuclear power plant, which implies Russian participation. The Minister of Energy was also in Russia, all this is commendable, but it is still inadequate”, Radev said.
Six years after he personally froze the construction of a second nuclear power plant in the Danube town of Belene, Borissov recently announced the intention to restart the project.
In the words of the President, the two countries have a huge advantage – that their relations are not based solely on economic interest.
“They are connected with deep historical, spiritual and cultural ties, and Russia has always been an important commercial and economic partner,” Radev said.
According to him, a turnover of €3.6 billion euros for the past year is a good figure, but it is far from previous results and the countries’ potential, so in his words it was very important to see in what areas more can be done to develop a more dynamic relationship.
The President also pointed out that it is very important to continue the traditionally good relations in tourism, science, education and culture where there are intensive exchanges, and to continue the work of the intergovernmental commission for economic and scientific and technological cooperation, which did not meet last year and is waiting for the Russian side to propose a date, because the next session is in Moscow.
Radev thanked for the invitation, noting that for the Bulgarian side this visit is extremely important because it restores the dialogue between the two countries at the highest level, suspended for many years. He noted that the meeting was also held on the eve of the Day for Bulgarian Education and Culture and the Slavonic Alphabet for all Bulgarians and Slavs. He also reminded that Bulgaria and Russia mark another important anniversary – 140 years since Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule and the return of Bulgaria on the map of Europe thanks to the Russo-Turkish liberation war..
Radev had invited Russian President Putin for the 3 March anniversary, but the Russian president was then in campaign, and it was agreed that the visit would take place later this year. The celebrations were obscured by undiplomatic comments of the Russian Patriarch Kirill, who came for to Bulgaria for the anniversary, and by an insulting reply by a Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister.