With the ratification of the Prespes Agreement considered as imminent and certain, Russia has clearly raised objections against the name change of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into “North Macedonia.”
Putin however accused the West of pressuring Macedonia and Montenegro, a new NATO candidate, against the will of their people.
The NATO expansion efforts are drawing “new dividing lines on the European continent,” he told the newspaper Politika.
Putin’s statements followed statements by the Russian Foreign Ministry and Sergei Lavrov on the same wavelength. Statements that angered both Greece and FYROM.
The citation of political developments in the domestic affairs of friendly countries by the Russian Foreign Ministry “overlooks the coordinated and effective democratic function of institutions in Greece,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said, in response to statements that the decision for a name change of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was “imposed from the outside.”
According to a commentary by the Russian government cited by Tass news agency beginning of the week, the decision of FYROM’s parliament to change the country’s name was “imposed from outside with an aim of pulling Skopje into NATO as soon as possible.”
The Russian ministry also claimed the decision was pushed through by Athens and would undermine stability in the region.
In its response, the Greek Foreign Ministry said that the Greek constitution “has explicit regulations to manage every possible event in domestic political order, which (area) undoubtedly does not lend itself to comments by third parties.” It said this intervention by Russia “does not befit the level of relations enjoyed by Greece and Russia and with the historical ties of friendship between the two peoples.”
The ministry also called on Greece’s international allies to “respect the spirit and letter of the Agreement and to applaud the fact that the political leadership of both countries (Greece and FYROM) had the necessary political courage to reach the resolution of a specially thorny issue, defending at the same time their own national interests.”
It should be noted that Greece expelled Russain diplomats in summer claiming that they were undermining the MAcedonia deal through illegal funding of anti-Macedonia protests. In terms of diplomatic reciprocity Russia expelled two Greek diplomats.
The Foreign Ministry of FYROM on Tuesday dismissed Moscow’s criticism of the deal to resolve the name dispute between Athens and Skopje.
“The Prespes agreement does not interfere with the interests of third countries,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said Moscow’s reaction undermined a genuine political process aimed at building confidence and friendship between the two Balkan neighbors.
Lavrov warns of Russian veto
On Wednesday in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also questioned the “legitimacy” of the Macedonia name-change referendum, which is an effort to end a long-running row with Greece.
“We do not oppose the name that has been proposed, we only question…the willingness of the United States to lead all Balkan states into NATO as soon as possible and to remove any Russian influence in this region,” he said.
“We cannot agree with those who say that Russia has no place in the Balkans,” Lavrov added. He implied that Russia, as one of the five permanent members, may veto the name change when it comes to the UN Security Council.
sources: afp, amna, kathimerini