SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has temporarily halted a pending 81.3 million levs ($49.3 million) deal to overhaul its jet fighters with Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG following an appeal from Ukrainian arms company Ukrinmash, its defence minister said on Wednesday.
The suspension comes just over a week after the Balkan country asked the Russian company to overhaul and maintain 15 of its aged MiG fighter jets and was about to sign a four-year deal with it, Krasimir Karakachanov told reporters.
Bulgaria considered the MiG maker as the only company capable of providing reliable support for the aircraft and did not invite other bidders for the deal.
“A complaint was filed with the Commission for Protection of Competition by an Ukrainian company that appealed the procedure under which the defence ministry has prepared the negotiations and was about to sign a contract,” Karakachanov said.
“When you have an appeal, the process stops”.
Bulgaria, an European Union and NATO member, says it needs to keep its Soviet-era aircraft operational after plans to buy eight new fighter jets had been delayed again.
($1 = 1.6501 leva)
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by David Evans