Mrs. Poptodorova, how will the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian troops affect the course of the war?
This counter-offensive, which is very strongly supported by European leaders, has a double effect. First, it is important from the point of view of the desire and need of the Ukrainian people to get their own land back. In addition, however, it also has great significance for changing the psychology of war. There should be no doubt that this is an injection of energy for every single Ukrainian. A counteroffensive is not just military action and success.
Is this achievement irreversible?
It’s still too early to tell. More informed analysts do not rush to their conclusions. I will admit that my first reaction was one of satisfaction that the right and most logical course of action was taking place. But in no case can we expect that Russia will not mobilize all available resources to the maximum to try to regain lost positions. Zhirinovski yesterday openly called for mobilization. The whole situation in Russia, the Kremlin’s decisions – everything leads to the inevitable decision to mobilize.
Why, however, has such a decision not yet been made?
I think Russian President Vladimir Putin is hesitant to take such a drastic step because it would have a boomerang effect on himself. His only move is to mobilize more manpower. On the other hand, such an action will cost him a lot politically. And perhaps his entire political life and position will be put on the line. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what Putin’s actions will be. One cannot endlessly regroup forces – move them from one point to another. It is obvious that the Russian army is losing manpower and equipment. The military support of the NATO countries for Ukraine is clear. We have a completely changed dynamic with a preponderance of determination and readiness for Ukraine. On the other side we see a “falling asleep”, I would call it “letting the air out”.
How much could the internal opposition in the Kremlin hasten the outcome of the war in favor of Ukraine?
It is a miracle that we heard and saw the voice of a real opposition in Russia. I am talking about the municipal councilors in St. Petersburg and those in Moscow. There are already journalistic publications that, although abroad, write and speak the truth. And the fact that voices are already being raised in Russia itself is really news. The military censorship imposed by Putin himself in Russia has all the hallmarks of a fascist policy. Since the beginning of the war, more than 5,000 information sources have been banned and closed. Probably not all of them are of high quality. I will also remind you about the adopted law, which provides for severe punishments for anyone who comments on the Russian military forces outside the official opinions of the Ministry of Defense. All these actions are a clear sign of Putin’s growing anxiety that such oppositional voices are being raised. We know the manner and mentality of the Kremlin, so I don’t see how Russia would lay down its arms to sit at the negotiating table. Until it became clear what happened in Bucha, Zelensky was the one who insisted on negotiations. After that, the tactics changed completely. Lavrov spoke about possible negotiations only this Sunday.
What is this a sign of?
That such an option is being discussed in the Kremlin. But what negotiations, under what conditions? Russia must also put its terms on the table. Negotiations are ongoing between two parties. Ukraine wants its land and freedom. He wants to live and develop according to his understanding. But what will the Kremlin demand, that is the question. If the topic of denazification is put on the table by Russia, you understand that there is no way for negotiations to even begin.
Doesn’t our expectation of an end to the war then sound doomed?
I only hope for a truce – to stop the shooting and death. The other will take a long time, if at all, in the foreseeable future.
To what extent can the role of Turkish President Recep Erdogan be relied upon in these processes?
Yes, Erdogan has the ambition to play the role of mediator. There is talk of a meeting at his house. But I do not have high expectations for such an upcoming meeting, if it ever takes place.
Do you think that we are putting ourselves in a humiliating situation to ask Gazprom to fulfill its contract with Bulgaria for the supply of blue fuel under the signed contract?
I don’t think any of us understood, not even members of the government, what was really happening on this subject. The Minister of Energy and the head of Bulgargaz said that they are not conducting such negotiations. Somewhere in space, someone at a high level is talking about some letters being written. No one knows, and that’s scary, especially since Gazprom is watching with glee the whole mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. And of course, they remain silent without fail. This is terrible for the self-esteem of Bulgarians. The government has fallen into a very embarrassing situation before us. Leave aside Russia, Gazprom, the Kremlin. We ourselves cannot have confidence and peace of mind that this composition, although we do not know who it is, knows how to conduct these conversations.
What is your advice in this case?
Let “Bulgargaz” send their letters to “Gazprom” until the contract expires, so that there is no formal reason for Bulgaria to be accused of terminating the contract. And that’s it. Much more important is what is decided in Brussels. I have heard it strange to equate current energy saving solutions with those from the time of socialism before ’89. It must be said categorically here – what the EU is doing at the moment are military-temporary measures. This is not a policy or a strategy. Such measures are taken by democratic countries in such moments of crisis. I will recall the great oil crisis of 1973, when all the major European countries imposed a regime of car use, electricity, street lighting for a certain period of time while their economies were mobilized and to cope with the shortage of oil. Because then OPEC decided to “turn the tap” on oil production. So these are usual temporary war measures. And we are at war. And anyone who tries to equate a 4-year policy with three-month emergency measures is actually desperately trying to support Gazprom.