January 2, 2018 / 12:09 PM / 9 months ago

Bulgarian watchdog clears way for MiG fighter jet overhaul deal

SOFIA, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s anti-monopoly watchdog has rejected a demand by Ukrainian arms company Ukrinmash to stop the Balkan country’s 81.3 million levs ($50.2 million) fighter jet deal with Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG.

Bulgaria last month asked the Russian company to overhaul and maintain 15 of its ageing MiG fighter jets. The country was about to sign a four-year deal, but had to put that on hold following an appeal by Ukrinmash.

The decision of the Commission for the Protection of Competition can be appealed within three days of notification, the watchdog said in a statement.

The Black Sea country 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.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia are at a low ebb after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its backing for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007 and NATO three years earlier, says it needs to keep its Soviet-era aircraft operational after plans to buy eight new fighter jets hit another snag. That process is expected to start almost from scratch sometime this year.

$1 = 1.6205 leva Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Mark Potter

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