Demystification: Signs that Moscow is Interfering in the North Macedonia’s Elections Are Not a Joke
The release of an old audio conversation between “Greta Thunberg” and the former Prime Miinister, as well as the top candidate for the next PM from the ruling party, Zoran Zaev at this moment has nothing to do with alleged pranks, but with the direct involvement of “Kremlin friends” in the RNM elections
Author: Teofil Blaževski
There is a big difference between the publication of illegally wiretapped conversations of SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE officials in this election campaign and the publication of an old illegally recorded telephone conversation between the alleged Greta Thunberg and Zoran Zaev by the alleged Russian pranksters, Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov.
The difference is that domestic “bombs” are mainly domestic production and are used in the black campaign in an attempt to gain pre-election points and more votes, while in this case there is a strong indication of interference in the country’s electoral process from abroad, which, according to factual analysis, points to possible interference by Moscow.
That is why the spin refers to making a joke with politicians, as the authors explain. According to the selection of “targets”, this is an intention to discredit all opponents of the Kremlin, regardless of whether they are assessed as such in relation to the internal or foreign policy of the Russian Federation. And that is exactly why this moment with the pranksters deserves demystification, due to the public interest.
Facts about the pranksters
Who are Alexei and Vladimir, known to the public under the pseudonyms Vovan and Lexus? These are two intelligent and educated persons who until 2014 in fact pranked i.e joked with public figures, above all, from the former Soviet Union.
But, since then they have decided they would be much more successful if they worked together. And, instead of joking with pop stars, they “decided” they would be much more successful if they joked with making fake phone calls with well-known or lesser-known politicians around the world. But, if you look at the list of names that have been allegedly called by them, there is a constant. All pranked politicians, most notably Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Peter Poroshenko, Alexander Lukashenko (who was persuaded that he speaks to the son of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who is seeking asylum), Emmanuel Macron, several US congressmen and senators from the Democratic Party who are against the policies of Donald Trump, members of the British royal family, etc., show they have tried/are trying to discredit people at a given political moment, which would be in favor of Russian foreign policy.
And their target of politicians from the region is even more interesting. In 2017, it was Montenegro politicians Milo Djukanovic and Dusko Markovic, with whom the pranksters discussed foreign policy issues, and in 2019 Zoran Zaev, twice! The only countries in the region that are members of NATO from a more recent date are Montenegro (since May 2016) and RN Macedonia from February this year, but in 2019 the ratification process was already underway.
These facts, indicating the pranksters are not just pranksters, but pursue high-level politics through the form of pranks, have been noticed by many world media, but still among the first ones of the media and those having the best knowledge of the situation, are the Russian media. Truthmeter has already written on the topic, and here we will only update what was said in an interview with the Russian independent newspaper The Moscow Times, which in March 2016 published a story about the two pranksters, with a quite clear headline: Happy to Be a Weapon: Russian Prank-Callers Target Kremlin Opponents.
Why at this particular moment?
As can be seen from the assessment of other Russian media, which claim that Vovan and Lexus are, de facto, weapons of one of the Russian security services, although they deny it, just as official Moscow denies it, it is not difficult to conclude that Zaev was not an accidental target. In fact, this was stated by Zoran Zaev himself, when he publicly admitted that he was a victim of “well-organized structures media influence” that “are mostly directed against individuals and countries with Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”
It is one of those attempts to directly damage our strategic interests for completing the process of NATO membership. These are well-organized structures for spreading influence in the interest of third parties, Zaev said in July 2019 (19 minute).
Unlike those previous few conversations, Zaev is much more careful in his conversation with the alleged Greta Thunberg and it is clear how he refuses to be directed to speak in a negative context about Macron or Trump. This attempt by the Russian pranksters was made public by the Government before the pranksters published it.
And they are publishing it now, several days before the voting, and it is covered with an animated video, which was immediately downloaded from several domestic portals. The first to republish it were portals that could be described as purely opposition ones. Moreover, this was immediately followed by a statement from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE…
All this clearly indicates there is nothing funny in the publishing of the phone call with the Russian pranksters. The publication of this type of illegally recorded conversation just days before the elections is an illegal involvement in the election and an attempt to influence the electorate in favor of the opposition party. But, unlike the domestic wiretapping “bombs”, which are domestically produced and whose “producers” may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution, Russian producers cannot, unless they arrive in the country, because under Russian law, their “joking” is not a crime!