Last week for Ukraine was marked by another scandal at the interstate level. On Wednesday, May 20, the Bulgarian parliament adopted a Declaration in which it strongly protested against Ukraine’s plans to carry out administrative reform in the Bolgrad district of Odesa region, one of the main centers of the Bulgarian minority in Ukraine.
Circumstances of the conflict
During the discussion in the People’s Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria, the deputies noted that the administrative reform in Ukraine is clearly aimed at striking at the Bulgarian minority. Accordingly, the government was urged to take all possible measures before the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to preserve the integrity of the Bulgarian community.
Immediately after the vote, the document was handed over to the Ukrainian Embassy.
Official Kyiv responded promptly and harshly. On the same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine strongly protested against Bulgaria for interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminded that the issue of the administrative-territorial organization of Ukraine belongs to the exclusive competence of state authorities of Ukraine. In addition, the Foreign Ministry called manipulative and untrue allegations about the impact of the reform on the national identity of ethnic Bulgarians in Ukraine.
Bulgaria’s statement surprised almost everyone
In fact, it turned out that the majority of representatives of territorial communities are in favor of creating separate OTGs. This process has been hampered by local authorities for many years, so the money that residents could receive in 2015 remained in the budget.
Representatives of communities, including the heads of all village councils of the district, urgently arrived in Kyiv on May 21, where they voiced their position. They met with people’s deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, as well as senior officials of relevant ministries to solve the conflict.
As Vitaliy Bezgin, a People’s Deputy and chairman of the subcommittee on administrative and territorial organization, said in a comment to Promote Ukraine, Bulgaria’s statement was provoked by the misinformation of some people from Ukraine.
“In the configuration of “5 communities“ it is assumed that the centers of all these communities will be Bulgarian villages. So there are no grounds for any allegations of ethnic persecution… Together with representatives of the Bulgarian minority, we (MPs – ed.) met with the Bulgarian ambassador to Ukraine, discussed and clarified the situation… I think that the Bulgarian side took a reckless step without understanding the situation. They were really manipulated because everything was presented as an alleged rupture of the district,“ the parliamentarian stressed.
He also noted that there were plans to organize a meeting of friendship groups of the parliaments of both countries and voice the position of Ukrainian deputies from the rostrum of the Verkhovna Rada, but now quarantine measures have prevented this due to the spread of coronavirus infection.
According to Vitaliy Bezgin, all branches of the Ukrainian government worked quickly in this situation.
Currently, the Foreign Ministry has assured that Ukraine and Bulgaria will continue negotiations. Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Vasyl Bodnar met with Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to Ukraine Kostadin Kojabashev. The parties agreed on dialogue, including at the interparliamentary level.
Who did provoke the conflict?
Unofficially, various sources name the main culprit of this scandal, the People’s Deputy of Ukraine Anton Kisse, who is the head of the Association of Bulgarians of Ukraine. It is alleged that he and his entourage misinformed Bulgarian deputies in order to inflate the scandal and maintain influence in the Bolgrad district of Odesa region.
Deputy Minister of Community and Territorial Development Vyacheslav Negoda also stated about the pressure on communities from politicians who support the idea of one OTG: “Local politicians put pressure on people. At one time, both the ministry and the experts put a lot of effort into explanatory work with the residents of the Bolgrad district. We took them to other OTGs so they could watch, learn from, and make a balanced decision. Which they actually did. And then suddenly such a statement from neighbors. It is obvious that the informant from Ukraine turned out to be unprofessional. Who did it? Let the relevant authorities look for the answer to this question“.
Interestingly, the news of the statement of the Bulgarian parliament spread widely in the Russian media.
But despite all attempts by external or internal forces to provoke another interstate incident, the Ukrainian authorities managed to stop it quickly. And in this case, the integrated work of all branches of government can be a model to follow in other similar conflict situations.