Деновиве е отстранета таблата со градот Севастопољ од детското игралиште; Фото: Мета.мк

The Russian-themed children’s playground behind the Universal Hall in Skopje, built with money from the Municipality of Centar and the Russian Embassy in North Macedonia, caused a kind of a diplomatic scandal. Meta.mk discovered that among the boards with names of Russian cities, there was a board with the name of the Ukrainian city of Sevastopol. It’s the biggest city on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by the Russian Federation and there is a dispute for violation of international law and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

After more than two months, Meta.mk’s journalists noticed that the board bearing the name Sevastopol was removed from the children’s playground, while the boards with the names of other cities have remained. Meta.mk contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Skopje, which confirmed that it has reacted about this issue to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia and to the City of Skopje.

The board with the city of Sevastopol that was placed in the children’s playground behind the Universal Hall; Photo: Meta.mk, October 2021 g.

“The Ambassador of Ukraine in North Macedonia, Ms. Nataliya Zadoroznyuk had several meetings at the MFA, where she expressed her stance against the unacceptable participation of North Macedonia’s officials, especially the Municipality of Centar’s leadership, in an effort of the Russian side to legalize the status of the temporarily occupied territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as a special subject of the Russian Federation,” stated the Ukrainian embassy.

It adds that MFA has confirmed North Macedonia’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and that the ministry assured the issue will be overcome.

The Embassy also stated that Ukraine is appreciating the fact that North Macedonia, as a NATO member and EU candidate, isn’t recognizing Russian Federation’s illegal effort to annex Ukrainian Crimea. They also reminded that North Macedonia is a signatory of all resolutions at the UN’s General Assembly regarding Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea and that this country took part at the Summit of the Crimean Platform in Kyiv in August this year.

Children’s Russian-themed playground with the removed board in the background ; Photo: Meta.mk

„Taking this into account, the Embassy pleaded to the authorities to take urgent action to deal with this situation and rectify in accordance with the international law’s principles and norms,” the Ukrainian embassy says.

Even the embassy’s representatives have noticed that the board containing the name Sevastopol was removed from the playground.

“We are convinced that it is a result of Embassy’s aforementioned pleas to authorities in North Macedonia and the appropriate measures, and we wish to express our gratitude for the efficient reaction,” said the Embassy.

Its representatives hope that such upsetting situations will not repeat in the future and the relations between both countries will strengthen and develop in the spirit of friendship and cooperation.

On the 27th of September, the former Mayor of the municipality of Centar, Sasha Bogdanovik on his Facebook page announced that the construction works at the children’s playground behind the Universal Hall are almost over and he informed the general public that the playground will receive new quality props, floor, new greenery, including benches and garbage cans.

Two days before the first round of the local elections in the country took place, on the 15th of October, the former Mayor Sasha Bogdanovik published another post on his Facebook page , where he informed that together with the Russian Ambassador in North Macedonia, Sergey Bazdnikin, he went to see the children’s playground behind the Universal Hall that was built as a joint investment of municipality of Centar and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in North Macedonia. This post by Bogdanovik was shared by the Embassy of the Russian Federation on its official Facebook page.

News agency Meta sent a list of questions regarding this case both to the municipality of Centar and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but also to the City of Skopje.