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Russia Behind Anti-Bulgarian Hysteria, says Macedonian ex-PM

Russia is behind the anti-Bulgarian hysteria in North Macedonia, including protests and the proposal for a referendum to cancel the Neighbourhood agreement treaty with Bulgaria, says the former Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buchkovski.

Buchkovski was a special representative of Skopje in the disputes with Sofia which were resolved before the summer, on paper paving the way for North Macedonia to start EU accession talks. 

“Russia has been working to destabilise the region for a long time,” the former prime minister said in an interview with the Bulgarian news agency BGNES. ”There is no turning back in Bulgarian-North Macedonian relations and with Bulgarian help, we will implement the French proposal and become a member of the European Union,” he said, referring to the requirement to include ethnic Bulgarians in the Macedonian constitution, something met with local opposition.

Bulgaria expelled 70 Russian diplomats and diplomatic staff from the Russian Embassy in Sofia at the beginning of the summer and North Macedonia also expelled several.

“It is no secret that Russia has been working to destabilise the countries of the Western Balkans for a long time,” noted the former Macedonian prime minister.

He is convinced that, in North Macedonia, the Russians are working on what can cause the most emotions, and that is Bulgarian-Macedonian relations.

“Behind the protests and behind the desire to hold a referendum there is Russian influence. Sooner or later this will become much clearer,” Buchkovski said, adding that “not only the Left Party is part of this scenario.”

He expressed satisfaction that Bulgaria and North Macedonia have maintained their good relations.