Macedonia: A pawn in the Russian geopolitical game?

The political crisis in the small Balkan country of Macedonia has caught Moscow’s attention. It might be developing into a new arena for the ongoing standoff between Russia and the West.

“Membership in the EU and NATO remains our highest priority”, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said during his party’s rally in Skopje on May 18. Some of his supporters cheered him wearing T-shirts with Russian President Putin and waving Russian flags.

According to many observers, this contradiction between Gruevski’s words and the pro-Russian folklore among his supporters reflects the current divisions in Macedonian society after months of deep political crisis and following a serious security incident in the city of Kumanovo that claimed 18 lives.

But what looked like a typical internal Balkan conflict might be developing into a new chapter in the standoff between Russia and the West. At least that is what Moscow is saying these days.

“The events in Macedonia are being orchestrated from the outside quite blatantly”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on May 20.

At the same time, he acknowledged Moscow’s support for the conservative government in Skopje. This is the last of a series of statements made by the Russian official, which surprised many people in the poor Balkan country with two million inhabitants.

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