Bulgarian President Rumen Radev faced a strong rebuke from his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky, during a meeting on Thursday. The incident occurred when Radev informed Zelensky that Bulgaria did not have any spare weapons to provide to Ukraine. In response, Zelensky criticized Radev for advocating a diplomatic solution to the conflict, asserting that it was a war, not a mere conflict.
Radev reiterated his belief that the conflict had no military solution and that further weapons would not solve the issue. However, Zelensky objected to Radev’s characterization of the situation as a conflict, instead emphasizing that it was an outright war. Zelensky then questioned what Radev would do if he were in Ukraine’s position and no one with shared values came to their aid. He rhetorically asked if Radev would request Russian President Vladimir Putin to seize Bulgarian territory.
The exchange between the two leaders occurred in full view of television cameras. Zelensky passionately argued that Ukraine needed support from its allies to defend itself against Russia. He warned Radev that Ukraine’s existing arsenal would not be enough to stand against the Russian Federation’s military might.
Zelensky urged Radev to reconsider his stance, stressing that supporting Russia and advocating for a balancing position would ultimately play into Moscow’s strategy of undermining NATO and the European Union. He emphasized that these were Russia’s goals and urged Radev to understand the gravity of the situation.
The incident was described by Politico as Zelensky “savaging” Radev and launching a scathing attack on him. Zelensky criticized Radev’s response and delivered his words with measured scorn, using barbed irony to emphasize his points. In contrast, Radev appeared to take refuge in a sheet of paper he held in his hands.
As tensions escalated, Radev eventually asked the cameras to leave the room. The encounter highlighted the differing positions of Bulgaria and Ukraine on the issue of arming Ukraine. While Western countries, including NATO members, have provided Ukraine with significant military support, Bulgaria has expressed reservations about supplying weapons directly.
NATO countries have sent billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, ammunition, and equipment to Ukraine since February 2022. However, they maintain that this support is not in direct involvement in the conflict with Russia.
Before the incident with Radev, Zelensky had met with Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov’s government. Denkov’s cabinet, which had only been in office for a month, expressed support for selling weapons to Ukraine. Following the meeting in Sofia, the Ukrainian delegation departed for Prague on a Czech air force transport.
The tense exchange between Radev and Zelensky reflects the ongoing complexities surrounding Ukraine’s conflict with Russia and the different positions taken by various countries. While some nations are willing to support Ukraine militarily, others, like Bulgaria, advocate for a diplomatic resolution. The incident serves as a reminder of the deep divisions and challenges faced by Ukraine and its allies in the region.