Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev (AFP Photo)
to Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev, Russian aircraft had entered
“Bulgaria’s area of responsibility” in NATO airspace four times in the
“It is very worrying, so we take preventive measures,” scrambling Bulgarian fighter jets, he told Nova TV channel on Sunday.
their violations, Nenchev said, Russian planes had turned off their
communications devices that make it easier for an airplane to be
Bulgaria, he said, has demanded explanation from Russia over the alleged violations.
The Balkan country, once a staunch ally of Moscow, has inched closer to the Western bloc, becoming a NATO member in 2004.
Bulgaria has expressed readiness to take part in a multinational NATO land brigade based in Romania.
However, it would
not join a proposed NATO fleet meant to counter Russian forces in the
Black Sea as it did not want a war there, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said last month.
East European country is almost entirely dependent on Russian energy
supplies, and many Bulgarians feel a deep affinity with their giant
neighbor across the Black Sea.
between Russia and NATO have risen, particularly since the Ukraine
crisis. NATO has said it plans its biggest build-up in the region since
the Cold War.
reinforcing its western and southern flanks with three new divisions in
response to the build-up, including readying of US missile systems in
Romania, Poland and the Baltics.
US has long insisted that the system is directed against Iran, but
Russian officials have slammed the move as an “attempt to destroy the
strategic balance” in Europe.
has described the US missile system in Europe as a “threat” and says it
is taking “protective measures” to guard against it.
recent months, the two sides have repeatedly accused each other of
staging erratic and aggressive maneuvers by their warships and aircraft
in flash point areas, mostly in the Baltic Sea.