SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) -- Bulgaria has agreed to provide the Ukrainian army with some 100 armored personnel carriers, marking a turnaround in the NATO member's policy on sending military equipment to Kyiv following the appointment of a new, pro-Western government.
Direct arms supplies were rejected by previous interim governments, appointed by President Rumen Radev. He is sympathetic to Russia and recently said that Ukraine was to be blamed for the war and that supplying arms to Ukraine only prolongs the conflict.
The parliament in Sofia late Friday approved by 148 votes to 52 the government's proposal to make the first shipment of heavy military equipment to Ukraine since the beginning of the war.
"This equipment is no longer necessary for the needs of Bulgaria, and it can be of serious support to Ukraine in its battle to preserve the country's independence and territorial integrity after the unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression," the Parliament's decision said.
The Soviet-made armored vehicles were delivered in the 1980s to Bulgaria -- then an ally of the Soviet Union in the Warsaw Pact.
Bulgaria, which joined NATO in 2004, still maintains stocks of Soviet-designed weapons and has numerous factories making ammunition for them.
Although Parliament approved in the principle at the end of last year the provision of military aid to Ukraine, it left the decision about the parameters of such aid to the executive, and amid political instability in Bulgaria over the past months, previous administrations had rejected the idea.
But the new government, appointed in June, has now moved to send the armored vehicles to Ukraine along with armaments and spare parts.
"We must give armored personnel carriers to Ukraine because Ukrainians are fighting not only for their freedom but also for ours," said liberal lawmaker Ivaylo Mirchev.
The decision sparked criticism from the Socialist party and pro-Moscow nationalists from the Revival party who voted against it.
"I don't think we can help Ukraine with military decisions and sending military equipment, but we can help it as a peace mediator, as a country that has specific relations with both sides," said the deputy speaker of the National Assembly and of the Socialist Party, Kristian Vigenin, on Saturday.