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defense minister Lloyd Austin He was confronted by protesters in Bulgaria on Saturday as he met Prime Minister Kirill Petkov to discuss the ongoing security crisis with him Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Demonstrators apparently protested against any military aid to Ukraine as they raised the Bulgarian and Russian flags while Austin and Petkov met at a joint press conference.
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Major players in the 30-member NATO, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and 17 other European countries, have provided military aid to Ukraine and encouraged other allies to follow suit.
But on Saturday, Bulgaria again refused to enter into discussions on sending defensive weapons to Kyiv.
“I would like to say very clearly that we have not discussed any military assistance to Ukraine,” he said, noting that reports to the contrary are “fake news.”
“We are working together to strengthen the eastern side of NATO, but nothing more has been discussed.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that in the face of Russian aggression in Europe, the alliance had to reassess position strength and build its security defences.
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Stoltenberg said the move should deter any consideration by Russian President Vladimir Putin of extending his war beyond Ukraine’s borders, and reiterated that an attack on any NATO country would trigger a response from the entire alliance.
Austin did not comment on Bulgaria’s refusal to send aid to Ukraine as Russian forces continue to strike, but instead praised the resilience of Ukrainian forces.
“Russian aggression has galvanized the Ukrainian people, NATO and the free world,” the defense minister said. “Their struggle is crucial to the international order based on common rules and values that Bulgaria and the United States share.”
On Saturday, Petkov said Bulgaria, which does not share a border with Ukraine, has accepted thousands of refugees and pledged to help Ukraine through humanitarian aid and medical aid.
He added, “But because we are so close to the conflict, I must say for the time being that we will not currently be able to send military assistance to Ukraine. That will not be possible.”
Austin said the US and Bulgaria would continue to conduct military exercises and work to improve Bulgaria’s military readiness and enhance “NATO interoperability.”
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