Pro-Russian legislative deputies in Bulgaria and pro-Moscow ethnic-Bulgarian politicians in Ukraine on May 20 protested a decision by the Ukrainian government to redraw administrative borders in Odesa Oblast. The Kremlin-leaning ethnic-Bulgarians who expressed their objection said the move was intended to divide their more-than-200,000-strong community in that region and eliminate the possibility that they would be able to continue to send a (pro-Moscow) Bulgarian deputy to the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament.
Moscow loyalists in both countries hope to trigger a serious conflict between Sofia and Kyiv. Tensions between the countries would make it more difficult for the Bulgarian authorities to support Ukrainian aspirations to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union, thus forcing Kyiv to turn back in Moscow’s direction. This Russian-backed and -exploited controversy has touched off a diplomatic row between the two governments.