FILE PHOTO: Bulgarian Defence Minister Yanev and his Spanish counterpart Robles inspect the joint air police activities at Graf Ignatievo Air Base
FILE PHOTO: Bulgaria’s Defence Minister Stefan Yanev and Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles inspect the joint air police activities carried by Bulgarian and Spanish pilots and jets at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

February 28, 2022

SOFIA (Reuters) -Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Monday he would sack Defence Minister Stefan Yanev after Yanev’s reluctance to describe the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a war prompted calls for his removal.

Petkov said the centrist coalition government will have a meeting later on Monday to vote on Yanev’s dismissal, when he would also propose a new defence minister. Petkov said all coalition partners have agreed to Yanev’s sacking.

“My defence minister cannot use the word operation instead of the word war. You cannot call it an operation when thousands of soldiers from the one and the other side are already killed,” Petkov said in a televised statement.

“The Bulgarian interest is not in bending our heads down…When we see something we do not agree with, something so obvious, we cannot keep quiet,” Petkov said.

In a Facebook post late on Sunday Yanev wrote that he was the subject of a targeted attack aimed at replacing him with someone who would be more open to taking decisions that serve foreign interests, which could put Bulgaria’s security at risk.

Petkov slammed Yanev’s statement saying neither of his ministers had the right for “their own foreign policy, especially on Facebook” nor to believe that their staying in office is directly linked to the stability of the government.

Petkov said European Union and NATO member Bulgaria is not forced to take any decisions by its Western allies but stressed that the biggest guarantee for the Black Sea country’s security lies in standing united with its European Union peers.

In December, Petkov was forced to explain that Bulgaria has not yet discussed deployment of NATO troops in the country in response to the build up of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border after Yanev posted on Facebook that he believed such troops were not needed.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by John Stonestreet, Kirsten Donovan)

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