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WARSAW — Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev unveiled plans by his government to sign the much-awaited contract for maintenance and repair services of the country's 12 Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets with Poland.
The minister first made the announcement in an interview with Reuters, confirming earlier reports on the government's reluctance to continue its defense cooperation with Moscow. Until now, the aircraft was serviced by Russia. The Bulgarian government decided to award the deal to one of its NATO allies, Poland, because of Sofia's increasing row with Moscow.
A representative of RKS-MiG, the aircraft's manufacturer, said Poland cannot legally perform maintenance and servicing works on the Russian-built fighter.
"Poland does not have the licence to repair and extend the life of the engines of MiG-29 fighter jets," RKS-MiG's Alexander Alexandrov told local daily Pressa.
This April, Nenchev told local media he was offered a bribe to sign a deal with Russia, but refused to do so. The extended deal until 2019 — which Nenchev said was "unfavorable" to Bulgaria — was priced by the Russian side at some 80 million leva (US $45 million), according to the minister.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Defense is also considering to acquire new fighter jets. When the country joined NATO in March 2004, its government vowed to replace six of its MiG-21 fighters and acquire eight new aircraft by 2016.