On Monday, the US said it is unhappy with Bulgaria’s president for recognizing that Crimea is Russian territory.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, who secured his second term in a vote on Sunday, made the comments during a debate last week where he argued for pragmatic ties with Russia.
“The sanctions that were imposed because of Crimea and Ukraine are not yielding results,” Radev said, according to The Associated Press. He said Crimea is “currently Russian,” adding, “What else could it be?”
The US Embassy in Bulgaria said it was “deeply concerned” over Radev’s comments. “The United States is deeply concerned by the recent statements of Bulgarian President Rumen Radev in which he referred to Crimea as ‘Russian,'” the embassy said in a statement.
Bulgaria is a NATO member, and the US said the military alliance’s stance is that Crimea is part of Ukraine even though it’s Russian controlled and the people of Crimea voted in a referendum to join the Russian Federation in 2014. “The United States, G-7, European Union, and NATO have all been clear and united in our position that, despite Russia’s attempted annexation and ongoing occupation, Crimea is Ukraine,” the embassy said.
Radev’s responded to the US statement and said the Bulgarian leader has repeatedly called Russia’s move to take Crimea “illegal” and that he only recognized the current reality during the debate.
“As President Radev said in the campaign debate, ‘currently’ Crimea is controlled by Russia and it is crystal clear that the problem cannot be solved by force,” Radev’s office said. The office added that Radev believes the current situation “creates tension in international relations, particularly in the Black Sea region, which has a direct bearing on the security of Bulgaria and its allies.”