Russia Claims Macedonia Crisis Managed from Abroad

World » RUSSIA | May 20, 2015, Wednesday // 21:47
Bulgaria: Russia Claims Macedonia Crisis Managed from Abroad Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leaves after the annual Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Belgium, 19 May 2015. EPA/BGNES

Russia on Wednesday blamed the political crisis in Macedonia on ‘outside’ forces trying to exert influence on Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski over his refusal to back Western sanctions against Moscow.

"The events in Macedonia are fairly brutally managed from outside,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in the Council of the Federation, the upper house of the Russian Parliament, according to TASS.

“Attempts have been made to accuse Gruevski’s government of failing to deliver on its pledges to the population. However, behind this lies desire to exert influence on him in connection with his refusal to back sanctions against Russia, support for the South Stream [gas pipeline project] and willingness  to cooperate in other options for gas supply,  including the so-called Turkish Stream”, Lavrov said.

He spoke after inconclusive overnight talks in Strasbourg between Gruevski and opposition leader Zoran Zaev aimed at resolving the political crisis in Macedonia. EU's regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn and MEPs Richard Howitt, Ivo Vaigl and Eduard Kukan acted as intermediaries.

Zaev claims Gruevski is behind the illegal wiretapping of 20,000 people, including police officers, judges and diplomats, while Gruevski accuses Zaev of plotting a coup.

Russia finds it “very regrettable and dangerous” that, in order to influence the Macedonian government, “the Albanian factor is being activated”.

Over a quarter of Macedonia’s population of some two million is ethnic Albanian. Armed clashes in Kumanovo, in northern Macedonia, recently led to the killing of eight police officers and 14 ethnic Albanians, described by the government as "terrorists."

In 2001, tensions between the two ethnic groups escalated into an armed conflict between government security forces and the ethnic Albanian rebels seeking more rights. The conflict was brought to a close with the Ohrid Agreement that saw enhanced social and political rights being granted to Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian citizens.

“Now, there is talk that Macedonia needs to be federalized even deeper, and ideas have even been floated as to why not dismember it and give part of it to Albania and another part to Bulgaria," Lavrov said.

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Tags: macedonia, Russia, Lavrov, Bulgaria, Albania, Kumanovo
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