Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev visited Ukraine after a 12 years interval. After meeting with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday, Plevneliev said that Bulgaria will not approve of and recognise the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Plevneliev mentioned the importance of Ukrainian territorial integrity and said that “Bulgaria supports the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Russian annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol violates international law, the Constitution of Ukraine and the Budapest Memorandum of 1994.”
Mentioning the 2014 referendum on the status of Crimea, Plevneliev said that "in addition, Bulgaria will never recognise the results of the ‘referendums', illegally organised by militants in Donetsk and Luhansk."
Stressing the importance of Ukraine as an ally he said that "for us, Crimea is Ukraine, and Ukraine is Europe. We strongly support the European prospects of Ukraine. We want visas abolished as soon as possible, even tomorrow."
Plevneliev also added that "Bulgaria is the engine and Bulgaria believes in integration, not isolation, of a nation. Bulgaria was among the first EU member states, which supported Ukraine's European prospects and the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, and it was among the first to ratify it."
Sanctions have been imposed on Russia by the West in response to the annexation, wreaking havoc on the Russian economy.
Speaking on the sanctions, Plevneliev said that “Bulgaria supports these sanctions and will act in support of Ukraine on the implementation of EU sanctions. Nobody has the right, especially in Europe, to shift the borders by force, and to occupy foreign territories.”
The Soviet Union invaded Crimea in 1944 under the regime of Joseph Stalin, exiling around 190,000 Crimean Tatars to various parts of central Asia and the Caucasus. However, Crimea became an autonomous region of Ukraine following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Following the ousting of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych by pro-EU demonstrators in Kiev, the ethnic Russian-dominated Crimean parliament declared independence from Ukraine in March 2014.
After holding a referendum which was largely boycotted by Crimean Tatars, Russians residing in Crimea voted to join Russia. The region became de-facto part of Russia with almost immediate effect as pro-Russian separatists, believed to be backed by Russia, declared an independent republic in eastern Ukraine.