Russian President Putin's visit to Bulgaria about which I wrote on Jan. 13 took place last week. In Sofia, activists of the opposition DSB party posted some placards saying, "Putin out". However, the posting was banned by the municipal authorities. On the placards already posted (and also on other surfaces), other placards were put saying, "Welcome, Mr. Putin". I saw them first-hand.
A colleague from our Medical Faculty moved me by e-mailing an invitation to attend protests against the visit. Unfortunately, the baby keeps me out of rallies, so I just watched the protests on TV. The security measures were unprecedented. Hundreds of policemen were guarding several dozens of protesters carrying the portrait of Anna Politkovskaya (Putin is believed to be behind her murder). Police also prevented bystanders from joining the protest. Residents of the Black Sea port city of Burgas (Bourgas) had also come to protest against the planned Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
Bulgarian citizens were promised beforehand that treaties would be just discussed during Putin's visit and eventually signed later. However, as Frog News reported, "an impressive amount of contracts was signed at the conclusion of negotiations between President Vladimir Putin and his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Parvanov... Bulgaria will become an active partner in the construction of the pipeline “South Stream”, which passes through the Black sea from Novorusiisk to Bulgaria and a number of other European countries. Yet another contract has been signed for the construction works of 4 new nuclear power reactors, built by Russians to “the sole benefit” of Bulgaria in the nuclear power plant of Belene. Furthermore, Russia will offer a loan of EUR 3.8 billion in case Bulgaria has certain difficulties in the process of constructing the nuclear power plant. Another agreement was signed, concerning the international project company in charge of the construction of the pipeline Bourgas-Alexandropoulos."
As you see, Bulgaria's dependence on Russian energy sources, both conventional and nuclear, is sealed for decades to come. Netinfo reports today that "a Russian consulate will be opened in the town of Belene to provide services for the Russian citizens employed permanently at the construction of the second Bulgarian nuclear plant... The Russian Consul in the city of Ruse estimates that their number will be about 2500".
The "South Stream" pipeline reportedly gets on the nerves of many European politicians because it follows almost the same path as the planned Nabucco pipeline. Europeans are unhappy about receiving such a large share of their gas from Russia and would want to have an alternative supplier, such as Iran. A wonderful situation, isn't it? Don't you, like me, dream of some future beyond the fossil fuel era?
Today, a new rally against the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline was held in Burgas. Local people are protesting because the pipeline will surely destroy what has remained of the environment, plus any perspectives of tourism development. The large Bay of Burgas is shallow and with a circular stream. Hence, its self-cleaning capacity is near zero. It has been damaged enough by the existing port and oil refinery. Now, its death sentence has been signed with the new agreements.
In her 2003 article Bush's Warsaw War Pact, so-called journalist Maureen Doud quoted an unnamed Soviet (?) expert saying, ''Bulgaria used to be Russia's lapdog. Now it's America's lapdog.''
It seems that Ms. Doud and the person who in 2003 still called himself "Soviet expert" were right only by halves. Bulgaria apparently is still Russia's lapdog.
Update: As a symbolic "counterweight" to Putin's visit, opposition-minded Bulgarians had invited former dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. Unfortunately, the visit was cancelled due to health reasons. Bukovsky was already on his trip when he suddenly felt unwell. Taking into account some recent operations by Russian secret services, it would probably be good for Mr. Bukovsky to visit a toxicologist.