Kiev accused Sofia of interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs, expressing “surprise and misunderstanding” at attempts by Bulgarian authorities to halt administrative reform in the Odessa region. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine called “manipulation” the allegations about the impact of the reform on the national identity of ethnic Bulgarians in Ukraine. The reform concerns the “exclusive powers” of the Ukrainian authorities, so “attempts to intervene by a foreign state are unacceptable,” Kiev said.
However, after these words, Ukrainian diplomats immediately changed their tone and called for resolving all issues “through constructive dialogue”, in accordance with the principles of friendship and good neighborliness, which “traditionally exist between Ukraine and Bulgaria,” the Foreign Ministry said in Kiev. . The cause of the conflict was an appeal by Bulgaria’s parliament – the National Assembly – which expressed concern about the fate of ethnic Bulgarians living in the Odessa region. In the course of the administrative-territorial reform, the Odessa authorities will divide the Bolgrad region, in which there is a compact Bulgarian community. According to unofficial data, there are nearly 300,000 Bulgarians in the Odessa region and they make up the majority of the region’s population. The authorities will divide it into five parts, as a result of which Bulgarians will become a minority in these new administrative units.
The Bulgarian Parliament called on the Council of Ministers to take measures to maintain the integrity of the community and to organize an urgent intergovernmental meeting with the Ukrainian side. In turn, Deputy Prime Minister Valery Simeonov did not hide his surprise at Kiev’s decision, because the majority of Ukrainian Bulgarians are loyal citizens of the Ukrainian state. According to him, the decision to divide the Bulgarian population in the Bulgarian region will be a serious blow to the largest Bulgarian foreign community and will depersonalize the Bulgarian diaspora. Simeonov threatened that Sofia would stop supporting Kiev in its bid for EU and NATO membership.
Bulgarian public figure and former MP Svetlana Sharenkova considers the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to be inadequate. “Negotiations for the Bolgrad region have been going on for a long time, even when the project of the territorial-administrative division was being discussed. “Ukrainian diplomats have promised that the Bulgarian community will not be divided,” Sharenkova told the Vzglyad newspaper. When the issue was discussed diplomatically, she recalled that Kiev was not offended and did not call Sofia’s actions interference in internal affairs. It is worth noting, however, that at that time Poroshenko did not publicly give any guarantees to preserve the entire Bolgrad region.
The head of the Eurasian Institute of Geopolitics and Economics, Plamen Miletkov, called the dispute a consequence of the policy of former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Christian Vigenin, who “sold our Bulgarians” in talks with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “However, Bulgaria has a soft policy, it will not block co-operation with Ukraine,” Miletkov told Vzglyad, suggesting that Kiev and Sofia will be able to find common ground. Kiev political analyst Andrei Zolotarev sees what is happening as a demonstration of the imperial ambitions of Ukrainian pseudo-patriots.
“For Ukraine, scandals with our neighbors are becoming the norm. This is not an isolated case, but a trend that forms a certain attitude towards the country within the European Union. This is based on the thesis that Ukrainians are the main nation and everyone else must be silent. But I think that after a while people with such a position will realize, “Zolotarev said. “If Kiev is reasonable enough and does not deepen, the incident will be settled soon. Otherwise, Ukraine must expect serious consequences for its European future,” he explained.
Moscow believes that Kiev’s behavior toward ethnic minorities can hardly be called “imperial.” “If we consider the Soviet Union as an empire – which is strongly said – in this empire there were significantly more books published in Ukrainian than now in independent Ukraine. “The Soviet ’empire guarantees the preservation of the national languages and cultures of all peoples, even the smallest ones,” said Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy chairman of the State Duma for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). “The way the Ukrainian authorities behave is not imperial ambition, but the opposite: narrow-minded nationalism.” “Ukraine does not want to admit to itself that its territory is complex (…). Kiev’s relentless desire to build “Everything according to the model of the united state has led to conflicts with all the neighbors, whose diasporas have historically resided on Ukrainian territory,” Zatulin added.
“The attempt to unite the country, to eliminate its national diversity has already led to a conflict in Donbass. Secondly, this has led to problems with the western neighbors,” he added. Ukraine has repeatedly clashed with its western neighbors. The most serious conflict arose between her and Hungary. This came after Ukrainian authorities effectively banned the teaching of languages to national minorities. Relations with Poland are also difficult. The reason for this is Kiev’s decision to declare the leader of the Ukrainian nationalists Stepan Bandera a national hero. “Now it’s Bulgaria’s turn. All rights of self-government of the Bulgarian communities in Odessa region have been taken into account, the administrative division is being reviewed, “said Zatulin.
“It is hardly possible to see Zelensky’s personal attitude in this. Apparently he is only interested in retaining power. He is extremely unusual in terms of national problems – especially when it comes to the problem of the Russian language in Ukraine.” However, Sharenkova believes that Sofia is not yet ready for such a sharp conflict with Kiev and would not want to block Ukraine’s membership in the EU and NATO. “Parliament adopted the declaration with the representation of nationalist and patriotic forces. of the ruling n rtiya. We have direct levers of pressure on Kiev only by the structures of the EU and NATO. But the headquarters of NATO will not intervene because it is only interested in the attitude of Russia to Ukraine, not to Bulgaria, “said Sharenkova.