Blast from the past

Wandering around Sofia, there is no doubt that you are in a place with a communist past. But I was astonished to find that it’s not just the architecture that remains from that era – there’s also an astonishing 15,000 tonnes of munitions stored in depots across Bulgaria.

An ammunition warehouse exploded in south-eastern Bulgaria last week, injuring 9 people. Three other people were reported missing, and it is assumed that they were killed in the blast, which left nothing but a 13 foot crater behind. The explosion is reportedly the sixth explosion at a munitions site in Bulgaria since 2000.

The ammunition is left over from the Cold War, during which eight communist states (Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovak Republic, GDR, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union) became signatories of the Warsaw Pact, under which they pledged the mutual defence of any member that was attacked.

Although Bulgaria has been working to reduce its munitions stockpiles, recent restructuring of the armed forces mean that the ammunitions stockpile is likely to grow to 25,000 tonnes by 2015. This would cost around €60m to destroy; serious money for such a small country, especially given the global financial crisis…

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