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A well-kept secret of weapons delivered to Ukraine in the Valley of Roses in Bulgaria

Located in the center of Bulgaria, the Rose Valley likes to present itself as the world’s top producer of scented essences. But, behind the postcard, the reality of the local economy earned it a completely different nickname, inspired by the American hard rock band: “Guns N’ Roses”. In Kazanlak, the “capital” of this valley and a typical post-communist city, with its gray HLM bars, it doesn’t take long to realize that fifty thousand inhabitants live much more. “tools”The weapons produced at the Arsenal, a giant factory that occupies dozens of acres in the suburbs, are only “roses” that have yet to bud this early spring.

A view of the city of Kazanlak, Bulgaria, where the Arsenal weapons factory is located, on March 15, 2023.

In front of Arsenal’s giant Soviet-style portico, the car park is filled with workers’ cars from all over the region. The factory is indeed working like never before after the end of communism. Hundreds of job offers are posted on the website, and an expansion site has been activated inside the complex, which is off limits to the press. “Roses don’t employ ten thousand people like weapons, especially since you have to start picking them at 3 o’clock in the morning.”smiles Dobromir Totev, former National Armaments Director and retired colonel, From this city with a rich military-industrial history.


The reasons for this sudden revival of activity are a sensitive secret: Arsenal, like its cousin VMZ, is installed a little higher in the city of Sopot, massively working for the Ukrainian army, which has an urgent need for ammunition of Soviet standards. However, Bulgaria is the only country that still produces it in the European Union (EU), along with Romania and the Czech Republic. But discretion remains in order: even though NATO member Bulgaria is a strong pro-Russian movement – 20% of Bulgarians say they support Moscow in the conflict. Also, even if in the first weeks of the war an airship was created to deliver ammunition to Ukraine via Poland, the leaders of this country of 6.9 million people never officially recognized it.

“Of course, we know that everything is fine in Ukraine”Nikuleta, an employee of VMZ, was relieved with a smile. We’re killing ourselves because there’s too much work at the moment.”He testifies and says for himself “I’m glad that we have enough salaries”. Posting record results, Arsenal, the country’s largest private employer with more than nine thousand employees, is proud to have increased wages on average to around €1,000 a month, a comfortable level in Bulgaria. However, Arsenal boss Hristo Ibuchev hangs up the phone when Ukraine is mentioned. “It is possible for weapons to go to Ukraine”, admits Katya’s lip service. Like him, many workers find it difficult to admit this. Met in front of the factory, he says to himself “Quite pro-Russian”, And they pay money for quality control of weapons aimed at Kiev. How does he manage this contradiction? “I try not to think about it”He slips before crashing into a car.

Source: Le Monde



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