A statement by a Russian parliamentarian has sent shockwaves through Bulgaria, as the country begins to realise that the many Russians who bought real estate in the country may sooner or later become a powerful political force.
The MP, who is from Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, was asked on Bulgarian television if his country would pursue a benevolent policy towards Bulgaria, if his party won the Sunday elections (18 September). In fact, United Russia won with more than 50% of the votes.
“Of course,” Piotr Tolstoy answered, adding: “We will just buy out the entire [Bulgaria]. Half of its coastline we have already bought,” he added.
Piotr Tolstoy is a great grandson of famous writer Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy. By profession, he is a journalist and is one of the most popular personalities on Russia’s Channel 1 television station, which is considered to be the voice of the government.
Tolstoy added that the EU, of which Bulgaria is a part, needs deep reform and that it should abandon the policy of enlargement with countries in “Russia’s zone of national interest.”
According to the Consulate General of Russia in Bulgaria, as quoted by the Bulgarian daily, Sega, Russian citizens have bought 500,000 homes in Bulgaria, many of which are located on the Black Sea coast.
Bulgaria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Daniel Mitov, called Tolstoy’s statement “arrogant, categorically wrong and in no way helpful for the development of the bilateral relations”.
Mitov added that the statement was not in line with Russia’s official positions, adding that he would appreciate if Russia’s official institutions distance themselves from it.
Julian Popov, a London-based Fellow of the European Climate Foundation, wrote on Facebook that the statement of the foreign minister is not enough, and that Bulgaria needs to find out what the real goals of the Russian Federation are vis-à-vis Bulgaria.
“Countries are not always taken over with tanks and airplanes. Hybrid war is a serious thing. The takeover of Crimea was the result of 25 years of negligence. The Bulgarian state should reassess the right of residence to foreign citizens, based on a small sum invested, or on possessing an apartment,” Popov wrote.
According to the Bulgarian law, only Bulgarian citizens can vote in parliamentary, presidential and local elections. During the last 5 years, 62,000 foreigners have received Bulgarian citizenship. However, few of them are Russian. The majority of foreigners who became Bulgarian nationals are from Macedonia, Moldova and Ukraine.