Journalists learned about the attempts of Russia to prevent Macedonia to join NATO

Journalists learned about the attempts of Russia to prevent Macedonia to join NATO

Journalists of the international consortium OCCRP published a new investigation, which refers to the attempts of Russia to prevent Macedonia to join NATO and plans to create a “band of neutral States” in the Balkans.

Russian spies and diplomats since 2008 has distributed propaganda and tried to undermine the Macedonian society in the framework of the company’s interference in the plans of the Balkan countries to join NATO. To such conclusion journalists journalists from the international consortium OCCRP (Center for the study of corruption and organized crime), together with Macedonian NOVA TV and the Serbian edition of KRIK. They studied the documents of the Macedonian counterintelligence.

“Over the last nine years, Macedonia is subjected to a strong subversive propaganda and intelligence activities carried out through the Embassy of Russia,” leading journalists extract from the report prepared for the Director of the office for security and counterintelligence (UBK) Vladimir Atanasovski. The beginning of “the Russian operation” coincided with the attempt of Macedonia in 2008 to join NATO when Greece refused to ratify the agreement, noted in the article by OCCRP.

Intelligence operations were carried out from the Embassy in Skopje three agents of the foreign intelligence Service, under the guidance of staff in Belgrade in Serbia, and four agents of the Main intelligence Directorate (GRU), whose actions are coordinated from the capital of Bulgaria Sofia, refer journalists to the documents. In addition, in the Macedonian cities of Bitola and Ohrid was established honorary consulates, which are “intelligence databases”. Journalists mention the old name of foreign intelligence, defense, now it is called the Main Directorate of the General staff.

Russian agents tried to recruit current and former employees of the interior Ministry of Macedonia and military to “a critical mass of trained people in a particular political moment was used for the execution of Russian interests”, stated in the document. The document does not specify whether these attempts are successful.

Representatives of Russia tried to influence the Macedonian media, offering them a cash reward, including supported edition aimed at the Albanian minority in order to promote the Russian policy in the country, according to the OCCRP.

In addition, in the document, which was available to journalists, stated that using “soft power” Russia is trying to isolate Macedonia from the influence of the West. In particular, in the example given the promotion by Russia of the ideology of pan-Slavism through the teaching of the Orthodox Christian faith. Journalists OOCRP refer to the document of the Macedonian intelligence service, which says that the Russian Embassy have helped the organization 30 Russian-Macedonian “Association of friendship”, and also opening a cultural centre in Skopje and sponsored the construction of Orthodox churches in the country.

In a separate document, which got the journalists described the meeting between the senior officer of the Macedonian Ministry of foreign Affairs Nenad Kolev and Russian Ambassador Oleg Shcherbak, which took place on 7 April.

The document says that the meeting Shcherbak said Russia’s goal is “to create a neutral strip militarily countries” in the Balkans. It was about Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia.

Moreover, Shcherbak allegedly expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the Macedonian government did not support the Kremlin and admitted that in case of continuation of such a situation of diplomatic and economic relations between Macedonia and Russia may be affected, refer journalists to the document. Three officials from the Ministry of foreign Affairs of Macedonia confirmed to reporters that a meeting on 7 April, but did not confirm its contents.

Employees of the Russian foreign Ministry did not respond to written questions.

The most severe political crisis of all the countries of the former Yugoslavia at the moment there is in Macedonia. In December 2016, the country held early parliamentary elections amid protests against the ruling conservative party “the Internal Macedonian revolutionary organization” (VMRO), which eight years ago ran for President Gjorge Ivanov.

After the election, VMRO and the opposition social Democrats (SDSM) won equal number of seats in the Parliament, SDSM managed to unite with the representatives of the Albanian minority. In Macedonia began the protests of the supporters of the VMRO, which, on 27 April resulted in riots in the Parliament, a crowd of protesters broke into the building and beat the deputies.

Macedonia is a parliamentary Republic, therefore the President is limited to the decision of whom to give the mandate to form the government. Ivanov, who was a candidate from VMRO, six months after the December elections gave a mandate to the leader of the social Democrats, Zoran Zaev. Zaev himself is in favour of EU membership and NATO.