Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.
Ukraine’s friend of the week: Ekaterina Zakharieva, Bulgaria’s foreign minister
The latest news from Bulgaria brings hope to Ukraine and a diplomatic headache to Russia.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry Ekaterina Zakharieva announced on April 29 her country would expel a Russian diplomat after Bulgarian prosecutors established links between six Russian nationals and several past explosions at arms depots between 2011 and 2020.
The EU member — which used to boast close ties with Russia — has already expelled seven other Russian diplomats and another Russian embassy staff member since October 2019, including over spying accusations.
The explosions were an alleged attempt to stop the supplies of munition stored in Bulgaria to Georgia and Ukraine to help both countries fight Russia, Bulgaria prosecutors’ spokeswoman Siyka Mileva said on April 28.
“The collected evidence points so far, with a great degree of credibility, to the conclusion that the aim of the actions of the Russian citizens was to stop the supplies of (munitions) to Georgia and Ukraine,” Mileva said.
Moscow’s expectedly denied the accusations and accused Bulgarian officials of trying to outdo authorities in Prague who alleged that Russian secret services were behind an explosion in the Czech Republic in 2014.
True to himself, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the accusations with his signature sinister humor in a press conference held in Moscow on April 29.
“It’s good that we haven’t yet killed Archduke Ferdinand. Apparently, this is where it’s going,” he said.
But Lavrov’s questionable sense of humor doesn’t seem to deter Bulgaria from standing its ground against the Kremlin’s misdeeds in Eastern Europe, which is why Zakharieva is Ukraine’s friend of the week.
Ukraine’s foe of the week: Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister
Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, is a familiar figure in this column. His ability to deny support to Ukraine makes him a consistent foe, especially when it comes to practical issues.
Maas’s latest affront towards Kyiv took place when Ukraine reportedly turned to Germany for weaponry to strengthen its coastal defenses, on April 24.
According to German media outlet Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Kyiv asked Germany for warheads, anti-aircraft guns, as well as unmanned underwater systems to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capability in the Azov Sea.
Such defense items could have been used to deter a potential invasion of Russia by sea.
However, the requests were never granted, the report claims, because Maas denied them, going against other German top officials, including Germany’s Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer who said she was “open” to the idea.
It is not the first time that Maas is siding with Russia.
On April 15, while Russia was amassing soldiers at the border with Ukraine, Maas rejected calls for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to be halted, warning that such action could lead to a further escalation.
Speaking on German television late April 14, Maas said: “I am skeptical that halting the Nord Stream 2 project would lead to a de-escalation by Moscow — in fact, it could have the opposite effect.”
With Russia’s constant aggression against Ukraine and the European bloc, Maas’s realpolitik increasingly looks like a desperate attempt to save Germany’s economic interest over Europe’s security.
A move that makes him, once again, Ukraine’s foe of the week.