08:52 GMT13 June 2021
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    Former Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev had his first day in court on Wednesday despite being the head of a political party currently engaged in an election campaign, Focus News Agency reported.

    Nenchev is currently running for a parliamentary seat as part of the Reformist Bloc in elections scheduled to take place March 26. Nenchev’s attorney filed a motion requesting that the trial take place after the election, but that request has been denied by a Sofia City Council judge. 

    State prosecutors allege that Nenchev’s mishandling of contracts put the safety of Bulgarian pilots in jeopardy, as the deals concerned renovations to six Russian-made MiG-29s. In 2015, the manufacturer of the aircraft filed a formal complaint with the Bulgarian Defense Committee for granting an aircraft maintenance and upgrade contract to Polish competitors. At the time, Nenchev complained that the aircraft-repair deal offered by Russian aircraft builder MiG was “overpriced,” Defense News reported. MiG has not worked on the aircraft since September 2015. Instead, Nenchev effectively benched a dozen MiG-29s and told reporters he would consider following the lead of other Baltic states in a policy of covering the costs for NATO to conduct air patrols over Bulgarian airspace. 

    An investigation by Bulgarian officials later found that 52 percent of all contracts signed by the Bulgarian defense ministry in 2016 contained irregularities, Defense News reported.

    Bulgarian President Rumen Radev is slated to testify during a hearing in April, according to Focus. Radev previously served as the lead commander of the Bulgarian Air Force. 

    After attempting to diversify its military suppliers by outsourcing to Poland, the Bulgarian defense ministry signed a deal with Sofia-based Aviostart to acquire 10 Russian engines that would require certification by Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG. 


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