Pro-Russian disinformation targeting Bulgaria has started to "seriously affect the army's ability to fight," Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev said at a debate in parliament on Nov. 15, cited by the news outlet Euractiv.
In particular, pro-Russian opposition parties were responsible for spreading disinformation that alleged Bulgaria's support for Ukraine would lead to direct military conflict with Russia.
Tagarev said the disinformation campaign has spread fear among young men, affecting their desire to choose a military career.
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Tagarev noted that the number of applicants for Bulgaria's military academies has dropped by 35%, and there are currently 6,000 vacancies open for positions in the military.
Concerns about Russia's malign influence in Bulgaria preceded February 2022. Pro-Russian narratives and disinformation are spread in the country by both Russian media and local actors, such as the politicians and political parties mentioned by Tagarev.
Although Bulgaria has provided Ukraine with a variety of aid since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, pro-Russian sentiment has remained prevalent in the country.
Many Bulgarians also support a position of neutrality regarding Russia's war against Ukraine. A poll conducted in October 2022 found that 67.5% of respondents preferred their government take no side in the war.
However, Bulgaria has become increasingly supportive of Ukraine as the war has progressed.
Almost 65% of Bulgarians polled in June 2023 supported Ukraine's accession to the EU, and 64% were in favor of supplying military aid.
Another 66% wanted the government to ban Russian state-owned media.
Tagarev reiterated his support for Ukraine, saying, “By protecting itself, Ukraine is protecting Europe from the Kremlin. If Ukraine loses, be ready to at least double the resources Bulgaria allocates for defense.”