Bulgaria to send its first military aid to Ukraine

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria will send its first military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion after parliament on Friday approved a list of arms drawn up by the interim government.

It had been one of the few EU countries not to send aid after the Russia-friendly Socialist party, a coalition partner in the previous government, blocked a previous proposal in May.

The list of arms is classified, but government officials have said Sofia would mainly send light weaponry and ammunition.

Caretaker defence minister Dimitar Stoyanov said Bulgaria, a NATO member, could not afford to send its Russian-made anti-aircraft missile systems or MIG-19 and SU-25 fighter jets, which Kyiv wants.

"My approach has been conservative, because I need to ensure the defence capabilities of Bulgaria. The aid is fully in line with Ukraine's priorities, but we are not sending S-300 systems, nor MIG-29 or SU-25 aircraft," Stoyanov told Nova TV on Friday.

While Bulgaria has not been sending arms to Ukraine, its arms manufacturers have seen a surge in exports, a report by the Bulgarian Industrial Association showed in November.

In August, the economy ministry approved arms export deals worth more than 1 billion levs ($540.22 million), most of which were destined for Poland - one of the key hubs for sending weapons to Ukraine.

A total of 148 lawmakers from the 240-seat parliament voted to send the aid on Friday, with the Socialists and the pro-Russian Revival party voting against.

($1 = 1.8511 leva)

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Andrew Heavens)