Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the following statement on Macedonia’s Minister of Defense Radmila Šekerinska’s interview with the Bloomberg agency (in which she said that the new government is increasing its efforts to join NATO, and that the membership in the military alliance will protect the country from the Russian interference in its affairs), :
The accusations of alleged interference of Moscow in the internal affairs of Macedonia are completely fabricated and unsubstantiated.
[Source: Meta, date: 15 August 2017]
We deem the statement of the spokesperson of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, untruthful.
Multiple articles denying Zakharova’s assertion that “the accusations of alleged interference of Moscow in the internal affairs of Macedonia are completely fabricated and unsubstantiated” had been published in the past period, and here we are going to give a few examples of them.
In June 2017, the video-portal NOVA TV published a shared research, conducted with its partners: Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project – OCCRP and the Serbian Crime and Corruption Reporting Network KRIK, in partnership with the British daily The Guardian, which found that:
Russian spies and diplomats have been involved in a nearly decade-long effort to spread propaganda and provoke discord in Macedonia as part of a region-wide endeavor to stop Balkan countries from joining NATO.
Conclusions deriving from the documents (from the Macedonian secret services), which have been analyzed and checked by team of journalists from four countries, point out that:
“By using the assets and methods of so-called ‘soft power’, as part of the strategy of the Russian Federation in the Balkans, the goal is to isolate the country [Macedonia] from the influence of the ‘West’”, one document reads. “Moreover, Russian foreign policy is in tight correlation with an energy strategy whose goal is to control strategic energy resources through partnership with the Balkan countries.” According to the document, the goal of the Russian strategy is to place Macedonia “in a state of exclusive dependency on the Russian policy”.
Besides, documents published in this research show that there have been nearly 30 Macedonian-Russian associations established in this country, which is a significant number having in mind that Macedonia doesn’t have this many bilateral friendly associations with any other country.
Furthermore, in May 2017, Sputnik Serbia (regional branch of the Russian information agency founded and owned by the Kremlin), relying on an unofficial information by Vecernje Novosti, published an article titled “800 armed OVK veterans have entered Macedonia from Kosovo”, and claims that:
Serbian security services have discovered that nearly 800 armed veterans of the notorious terrorist organization OVK have entered Macedonia from Kosovo.
This maneuver has been pulled off on two occasions, and according to the operating data, the Albanian extremists have been armed with automatic rifles. They have entered Macedonian territory in groups and have been secretly transporting weaponry cases as well…
With this article, the state-owned Sputnik joined the campaign led by pro-Russian newspapers in Serbia and Macedonia too, which have been reporting on hundreds alleged extremists located on Macedonia’s west and north-west borders. Such articles have been prevailing prior the events on April 27, when protesters stormed in the Parliament of RM and injured the MPs of the new ruling majority. As we already know, there haven’t been any armed extremists whatsoever that have stepped on Macedonian territory.
On 6 April 2017, Sputnik published an article “Kosovo plus Macedonia – Greater Albania”, which reads:
The ongoing crisis in Macedonia has been set up from abroad so the country could be federalized by the one-sided separation of the ethnic Albanians, which is the last step toward the creation of Greater Albania, the World with Sputnik show concludes.
These are not the only examples in which Sputnik has been fomenting pre-military euphoria in the country. There have been articles announcing war in Macedonia as well as statements such as “there is a potential for a clash between members of opposing sides as well as danger of organized attacks, such as the one in Kumanovo in May 2015” (Is the CIA backing the conflict in Macedonia, April 26), which create the impression that war is on our doorstep.
On 21 May 2017, the Russian information agency published an article, which reads:
Although no truly patriotic party presently exists in Macedonia anymore after what happened, that doesn’t mean that the country is lacking in patriots.
According to Sputnik, “hundreds of thousands of civil society activists who participated in regular demonstrations over the past month in favor of retaining their beloved United Macedonia, as well as popular journalists, could conceivably form the core of a new pro-Macedonian movement-party”. Even names of potential leaders of such party are mentioned in this article, and it’s a matter of persons who openly speak against NATO and who have expressed their pro-Russian position in the past.
Therefore, as opposed to the assertion of the spokeswoman of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zakharova, the aforementioned examples demonstrate that “The accusations of alleged interference of Moscow in the internal affairs of Macedonia” do not appear to be fabricated and unsubstantiated.
- Meta (15 August 2017): Russia is asking for transcripts from Šekerinska’s interview with Bloomberg [Accessed on 16 August 2017]
- Ministry of Defense’s website (09 August 2017): Shekerinska for Bloomberg: Republic of Macedonia Eyes NATO to Ward Off Russian Interference [Accessed on 16 August 2017]
- NOVA TV (04 June 2017): Руски и српски обиди за мешање во внатрешните работи на Македонија [Accessed on 16 August 2017]
- Sputnik Serbia (26 April 2017): Стои ли ЦИА позади конфликтот во Македонија [Accessed on 16 August 2017]
- Sputnik Serbia (06 May 2017): Во Македонија од Косово влегле 800 вооружени ветерани на ОВК [Accessed on 16 August 2017]
- Sputnik (28 April 20217): „ Се заканува ли нова балканска војна“ [Accessed on 16 August 2017]
- Sputnik (06 April 2017): „Косово плус Македонија – Голема Албанија“ [Accessed on 16 August 2017]
Assessed by: Olivera Vojnovska