Tens of thousands of people take to the streets of Macedonian capital Skopje on Sunday to demand the resignation of conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in a rally organised by the opposition.
Led by the Social Democratic party SDSM, the opposition wants Gruevski to step down and make way for a technical government that would prepare fair elections.
The SDSM and its allies have refused to acknowledge the result of snap elections held 13 months ago, claiming that Gruevski and his VMRO party committed election fraud. SDSM leader Zoran Zaev has also accused Gruevski of illegal wiretapping.
The divide between the government and the opposition in Macedonia, which strives to join NATO and the European Union, has remained insurmountable despite pressure and efforts from the West.
However, REUTER’s Moscow news desk reported that Russia accused “Western organisers” on Saturday of trying to foment a “colour revolution” in the troubled former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, where political tensions are building ahead of an opposition rally on Sunday.
“Colour revolution” is a term often used to describe popular uprisings in the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine, where Moscow also accuses the West of deliberately meddling in local politics to further its interests.
In a statement on the Macedonian crisis, Russia’s foreign ministry cited Serbian media reports about the arrest of a citizen of Montenegro accused of helping what Moscow called “Albanian extremists” operating in Macedonia.
“(This is) convincing evidence … of attempts to push the country into the abyss of ‘colour revolution’,” it said. “This is also evidence that Western organisers of such catastrophic scenarios prefer to realise them with the hands of others,” the ministry said, drawing a parallel with Ukraine, reuters reports.
Moscow accuses the West of helping to engineer the overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich after mass street protests in early 2014. He then fled to Russia.
In Macedonia, opponents of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski are holding a rally demanding his resignation over wire-tap disclosures that appear to indicate widespread abuse of office by senior government officials.
The small Balkan state is also reeling from a bloody gun battle last weekend during a police raid on an ethnic Albanian neighbourhood of northern Macedonia that left 18 people dead, 10 ethnic Albanians described by the government as “terrorists” and eight policemen.
The European Union and NATO have called for a transparent investigation into last week’s killings.
Russia has often been critical of Western policy in the Balkans. It strongly backed the Serbs fellow Orthodox Christian Slavs in their conflict with their mainly Muslim ethnic Albanian minority in the 1990s.
Moscow opposed granting independence to Kosovo, formerly a Serbian province with a mainly ethnic Albanian population. Macedonia, just to the south of Kosovo, is also home to a large ethnic Albanian minority.