European sanctions prohibit the EU members from trading arms with Belarus. In order to repair already purchased equipment in Belarus, the Bulgarian parliament is amending the national legislation.
The Bulgarian parliament has adopted an amendment to the law on export control of military products. The initiative belonged to a member of the party “Bulgarian National Movement,” while the amendment was made between the readings of a completely different law — “On Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” writes “The Capital”.
According to the media, the idea of the behind-the-scenes legal amendment is to remove the control of the Ministry of Economy over the repair and modernization of weapons.
In November 2018, Bulgaria signed a contract with the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranavichy to repair eight Su-25 attack aircraft. The amount of the contract was 73.6 million euros without VAT (or about 88 million including VAT).
The Bulgarian Army has 14 Su-25 attack aircraft designed to support infantry, but only five of them can fly. They are to be replaced by American F-16s, but not before five years from now.
In December, the Ministry of Defense of Bulgaria transferred the first tranche of about 41 million euros to Belarus. However, the money never reached Baranavichy because of the EU directive on the embargo on the supply of arms and means which can be used for internal repression. In February, the EU extended the sanctions for another year.
According to the Ministry of Defense of Bulgaria, the import of equipment in Belarus is not an export, as it is temporarily imported for repair.
Bulgaria has entrusted the Parliamentary Commission on Export Control with the solution of the problem, the “Dnevnik” media outlet reports.
“The Ministry of Defense paid the specified amount in December, after which the money was returned to the bank, which was to make the transfer,” said Deputy Defense Minister Anatoli Vyalichkau in May 2019.
It is expected that after the publication of legal changes, the Minister of Defense of Bulgaria will sign a temporary permit to export the Su-25 to Belarus, while the Ministry of Economy will not interfere with the “export”.
“Su-25 are flying to Belarus through the “back door,” write the Bulgarian media.
Baranavichy plant will be able to start repairing the Bulgarian aircraft after the transfer of funds, while the precedent may open up the Belarusian market of maintenance and modernization of military equipment of Soviet and Russian manufacture for other EU countries in the future.