Russian spies and diplomats have been involved in a nearly decade-long effect to spread propaganda and provoke discord in Macedonia as part of broader efforts by the Kremlin to increase its influence all across the countries in the former Yugoslavia and to stop them from joining NATO and to pry them away from western influence, writes British newspaper “the Guardian“.
The newspaper says that these activities began in 2008, quoting from leaked classified documents from the Macedonian secret services, that were obtained by the network for Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project ( “Nova TV”, the Serbian network for research on crime and corruption “Krik”, in partnership with British newspaper “the Guardian”).
The findings of the documents show the efforts by Serbian intelligence to support “anti-Western and pro-Russian nationalists in Macedonia.”
“By using the assets and methods of so-called soft power, as part of the strategy of the Russian Federation in the Balkans, the goal is to isolate the country (Macedonia) from the influence of the west”, says one of the leaked documents.
According to a briefing prepared earlier this year for Vladimir Atanasovski, the Director of Macedonia’s Administration for Security and Counterintelligence (UBK), it stated that for the last nine years, Macedonia has been “undergoing strong subversive propaganda and intelligence activity directed from the Russian embassy”, writes the Guardian. The beginning of Russian activities coincides when Greece blocked Macedonia’s attempt to join NATO due to the long standing name dispute, reports the British newspaper.
Moscow intelligence activities were carried out by their embassy in Skopje, by three agents of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and overseen by SVR’s sister station in the Serbian capital Belgrade, as well as four spies from Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, coordinated from the GRU base in Sofia, Bulgaria.
In one of the documents it states that Russian agents worked to recruit current and former members of the Macedonian Army and a Minister of Interior to create a “critical mass of military trained individuals, who at some important political moment or situations would be useful in achieving Russian interests. ”
Russian agents offered cash to affect the Macedonian and the Albanian language media in Macedonia “to spread information and disinformation to support Russian policies.”