The day Russia launched a military aggression against Ukraine in order to occupy it, the portal Index, which operates in North Macedonia, published two video clips from an interview with the leader of the pro-Russian party in the country “United Macedonia”, Janko Bacev, in which he on behalf of the Macedonian people threatens that “Albanian politicians should not play with fire”. In fact, Bacev can speak only on his own behalf and/or on behalf of the party he represents, because the citizens of North Macedonia did not give him the confidence to represent them with the anti-Western platform that he has been promoting for 20 years, writes Portalb.mk
While the Western world was shaken by Russian aggression on Ukraine, the portal Index published video clips where Bacev talks about the 2001 conflict and incites hatred between Albanians and Macedonians.
Spin: I urge Albanian politicians not to play with fire, because that is not good. We should live together as fellow citizens and it is not good to encourage such statements because this time, God forbid the conflict is repeated, those Albanian radicals will have to deal with the Macedonian people because we all know that in 2001, the KLA formations they did what they did by taking advantage of the betrayals that took place at the head of our country, not that the Macedonian security forces could not destroy them in 2001. At the beginning there were 700 or 800 people accompanying Ali Ahmeti in the mountains, the state security authorities knew everything, they could practically destroy them at that time, but the deep political division in the Macedonian camp was used, so I would not like to repeat such a thing and return to the old dreams of returning to such a state.
[Source: Index.mk – Bacev / statement-24.02.2022]
Counterspin: Bacev’s vocabulary of mafia threats is a spin used to fuel interethnic tensions at a time when the Ukraine crisis is raising questions about whether it could be extended to the Western Balkans region, which has always been the target of Russian propaganda because of its multiethnic structure.
Bacev is neither competent nor has anyone given him the confidence or the right to speak on behalf of the Macedonian population that democratically legitimizes its political representatives.
There is no evidence of, as Bacev says, a betrayal of the head of state. The cessation of the armed conflict was not a “betrayal”, but an act of peace between the two largest communities, Macedonian and Albanian, which with the mediation and assistance of the international community signed the Ohrid Agreement, which today serves to maintain peace, stability and multiethnic character of the state.
Bacev, according to the biography he published on the website of the party “United Macedonia” from 1994 to 2010 served in the State Security Service at the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Macedonia. In his first-person singular biography, he does not mention that during the 2001 conflict he held a high and decisive position in relation to the conflict.
Bacev, during the Russian aggression, posted articles on Facebook full of disinformation about the conflict in Ukraine. And it is not surprising that Bacev is the president of the party “United Macedonia”, which in its statute provides for Macedonia’s integration into the Eurasian Economic Union and strategic partnership with Russia.
Bacev’s narrative of the 2001 conflict is identical to that of his “ideological father,” Vladimir Putin, from whom he apparently took the model of publicly threatening and inciting hatred among nations.
This statement comes at a time when the entire Western world is calling for peace and an end to hostilities, except for the Russian pro-government media, which fully supports and justifies the aggression against the independent and sovereign state of Ukraine.
All the while, during the Russian aggression, Bachev shared content on Facebook full of disinformation about Ukraine.
Russian narratives towards the Western Balkans
The study, entitled “Russian Narratives towards Western Balkans” published by the NATO Center for Strategic Communications (STRATCOM), identifies several Russian narratives in the Western Balkan media. The survey is based on media reports in 2018, citing the Serbian edition of Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency. The Kremlin-sponsored Sputnik website is known as one of the main channels of Russian influence in the Western Balkans.
Narrative: the Western Balkans is an arena of conflict of interest between East and West
This is the most common narrative used in all six countries. The EU and NATO are seen as key representatives of the West and are perceived as a collective influence in the region.
In some of the publications of Sputnik Serbia in which this narrative is noted, and they refer to North Macedonia, there are claims that the referendum for changing the name was dictated by the West. Furthermore, Sputnik Serbia presents the referendum as invalid due to the low turnout and concludes that this showed that the opinion of Macedonians has a small share in the outcome and that it is an example of how the West interferes in the internal affairs of other countries. Meanwhile, Russia is presented as a protector of the right of the Macedonian people to make an independent decision on the new name of their country.
Narrative: The Western Balkan is unstable
The narrative that the region is “unstable” and has a “high potential for conflict” also uses ethnic tensions in the region to reinforce the impression of insecurity and fragile peace. Thus, texts are published with the title “We are two bullets away from instability” or “The door to hell opens in the Balkans.” This narrative focuses on unresolved border disputes and bad relations between neighbors.
Specifically, in North Macedonia, the two most used narratives found in the research are “The Western Balkans is unstable” and “Western Balkan countries are weak, incompetent and corrupt.” The most widely used narrative is that “the EU is hegemonic.”
The most used sub-narratives in North Macedonia are “Creation of a Greater Albania”, “Intolerance between opposition parties”, “North Macedonia is a captive state”, “North Macedonia is a criminal state”, “The name change referendum is invalid”, “Russia is a traditional friend of Macedonia.”