07:39 GMT07 June 2020
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    The chairman of the Alternative for Bulgarian Revival Party (ABV), Rumen Petkov, has once again spoken out against the purchase of American F-16 fighter jets by Bulgaria. According to the opposition party leader, by acquiring the F-16 planes, the government and Parliament would demonstrate that the country is ready to deploy nuclear weapons.

    "These are fighter jets that can carry nuclear warheads on board. We are taking the first step which will show that we are ready to deploy nuclear weapons in Bulgaria", Focus agency quoted Petkov as saying.

    The politician also commented on the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) noting that the inability of the EU, the European Commission and NATO to guarantee dialogue is concerning.

    "Today [on 2 August] we saw the termination of the agreement <...>, from which the United States unilaterally withdrew and which, first of all, puts (the security) of Europe under threat. We are located in between (Moscow and Washington), and when this agreement comes to an end, we must understand that both of these powers can guarantee their interests in the event of an arms build-up in Europe, and we will be victims", Petkov said.

    Petkov has repeatedly criticised Bulgaria's decision to buy the US planes. The politician earlier said that the country would not scare anyone with these fighter jets, and compared them to "costly vacuum cleaners."

    Bulgaria has been negotiating the purchase since 2017, but two weeks ago the country's President Rumen Radev vetoed the deal to buy eight new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets.

    The veto follows a debate in Parliament that revealed divisions on the contract terms. The President said that the lack of consensus over the $1.26 billion deal is "extremely worrying". The Parliament could still overrule Radev's veto with a vote of at least 121 in the 240-seat assembly.

    If the deal goes through, the F-16 aircraft will be delivered in 2023 and early 2024. It should also be noted that the government will use a state loan to partly pay for the purchase (about $400 million), while the remaining amount will be allocated from reserves.


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