European Union leaders reeled in shock following the latest video call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who addressed them in a way similar to a final goodbye, according to Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
(Updated with sentence “The Prime Minister also said that the days until Ukraine would fall were counted.”)
Petkov recounted the conversation with journalists he addressed on the fringes of the Extraordinary EU summit on Friday (25 February).
“It was a very emotional conversation. President Zelenskiy, who was in a bunker, came in and said: ‘I don’t know if I’ll see you again because I’m on the (Russian) kill list’.
Petkov continued, “One shudders because this man who is asking for help and support may not be alive in the next 48 hours. This shook all the leaders as it is one thing to see the victims on television as statistics, and it’s a different thing to look someone in the eye for whom it is a matter of hours whether they can survive.”
The Prime Minister also said that the days until Ukraine would fall were counted.
He continued that no EU member state was genuinely prepared for Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine.
A recording of a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin announcing the start of a “special military operation” in Donbas was broadcast early on Thursday morning and laid down aims of demilitarising and denazifying Ukraine while bringing its leaders to supposed justice.
‘A third of the Ukrainian army destroyed’
“No EU leader has expected such a massive attack,” Petkov said. “It was expected thе Russian tanks will enter the provinces (Donetsk and Lugansk), but no one expected such a massive attack with so many casualties. A third of the Ukrainian army has already been destroyed,” Petkov underlined.
“If there were a partial incursion, maybe we would have imposed soft measures. However, with such an incursion, there was no voice around the table for soft measures. I said that Bulgaria supports in one voice these opinions, our opinions will not be evasive,” Petkov explained.
He said Bulgaria had been “bold enough” in pushing for sanctions. “There were countries that wanted measures related to oil exports that we cannot afford as a country. But we supported measures against the people who decided on Ukraine,” Petkov said.
In his words, the European sanctions will undoubtedly affect large sectors of the Russian economy, and they will impact those involved in deciding to follow the path of aggression.
Meanwhile, discussions regarding the sanctions continue.
Petkov also said that Russian troops sent to Ukraine were not aware of the operation and thought this was some sort of drill.
“Young guys on both sides are dying because of one leader who stands at the long table and makes the decisions. These sanctions won’t hurt Putin, but we can’t stand idly by,” Petkov said, noting that Russia “is absolutely not interested in what Europe is doing.”
Petkov also commented on the Bulgarian Minister of Defence, Stefan Yanev, who said a day earlier that one should avoid describing the situation as a “war” because “Putin is not doing that”, the “card of war” should not be used, and people should not be frightened.
The prime minister made it clear he is bewildered at Yanev’s comments.
“What card of war, they destroyed one-third of the (Ukrainian) army, here the only thing that is being dangled are missiles, shelling by the Russian Federation of an independent state. We can’t talk about a balance of power here, these people just invaded Ukraine,” Petkov said.
“This is what happens when we don’t live in a democracy. One leader and what happens in his head determines people’s lives in whole of Europe,” he added, noting that he also spoke to his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis about Bulgaria’s energy security because “the Greek gas link is becoming a major issue”.
A Greek company is building the IGB interconnector (also known as Stara Zagora-Komotini or ICGB). For over a decade, businesses and politicians in Sofia and Athens have made optimistic statements about the ICGB interconnector, but the construction remains unfinished.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]