Kazanlak, central Bulgaria, with its massive arms factories and endless rose fields, has lived up to its “Guns and Roses” nickname since Moscow attacked Ukraine.
Bulgaria’s thriving arms business has never had it so good. Exports were estimated at $4.3 billion (about four billion euros) last year. More than tripling its previous high.
Arsenal, the country’s oldest arms manufacturer, is offering seaside vacations and other incentives to entice new employees to its Kazanlak factory. Which already employs 7,000 people.
It has even been tempting back Bulgarians who left the Balkan country to find work abroad.
Although Bulgaria has largely avoided sending arms to Ukraine due to the EU member’s historic ties with Moscow. Kazanlak’s burgeoning output is primarily intended for that country.
Its weapons and ammunition are instead purchased by neighbouring Romania and Poland before being shipped to Kyiv.
Kazanlak and the surrounding “Valley of the Roses,” which is also known for its rosewater, suffered greatly when the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, though conflicts in the Middle East revived demand for their cheap and sturdy weapons, such as the AR-M1, the “Bulgarian Kalashnikov” rifle, in the 2010s.
‘Not a political pawn’ –
Supplying arms to Ukraine is an extremely sensitive issue in Bulgaria.
The Socialists — the successors to the old communist party — and the ever-rising ultra-nationalists are firmly against as the country gears up for the fifth election in two years next month.
Parliament so far has authorised only one shipment of light arms and ammunition to Kyiv.
Shortly after the invasion began, pro-European then-premier Kiril Petkov walked a tightrope to try to help Kyiv.