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Society

Russia Denies Promoting FYROM Protests Over Name Deal

July 18, 2018

SKOPJE (AP) — The Russian Embassy in FYROM on Tuesday denied the FYROM prime minister’s allegations that Moscow is involved in public protests of an agreement with Greece that would enable the former Yugoslav republic to join NATO.

In a statement , the embassy described Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s claim that Russia-based businessmen were used to channel money to protest groups in FYROM as “unfounded.”

The Greek government has made similar allegations and expelled two diplomats based at the Russian Embassy in Athens last week.

NATO has acquired 13 members since the collapse of Communist governments in Europe, and Russia views the military alliance’s eastward expansion to be an act of hostility toward Moscow.

FYROM is set to hold a fall referendum on the deal, which is intended to solve a long dispute with neighbor Greece over rights to the Macedonia name.

The two countries have been at odds since FYROMa gained independence in 1991, with Athens arguing that its name implies a claim to the territory and ancient legacy of its own region of Macedonia.

Under the agreement, FYROM would be renamed “North Macedonia” and Greece would withdraw its objections to the republic joining NATO and the European Union.

Zaev made the allegations against Russia in an interview last week with the internet media company BuzzFeed. He said at a news conference Tuesday that he was commenting on reports he received from security services, but did not elaborate.

“We are a small country and we wish to have good relations with all countries,” he said. “Good relations with the Russian Federation is a priority for us.”

The prime minister continued: “But the Russian Federation should know that the Republic of ‘Macedonia’ has no alternative other than to seek membership (in NATO and the European Union).”

Zaev made the remarks after meeting in Skopje with EU enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who officially launched the screening process to start EU membership talks with FYROM next year.

Former Yugoslav republics Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia are already NATO members.

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By KOSNTANTIN TESTORIDES and DEREK GATOPOULOS , Associated Press

Gatopoulos reported from Athens, Greece.

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