Macedonian premier says will not step down despite opposition demand
Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski says he is not stepping down despite calls by the opposition for his resignation amid political tensions in the country.
Gruevski made the remark during an interview with the Sitel television channel on Saturday, a day before thousands of anti-government protesters are expected to take part in a rally in the capital, Skopje.
“I have no intention… neither to resign nor to accept a transitional government,” Gruevski said.
He also accused opposition leader Zoran Zaev of ‘spying on behalf of a foreign country’ and instigating the unrest in Macedonia.
Meanwhile, the premier’s ruling VMRO-DPMNE Party is also scheduled to hold its own demonstration in support of the government on May 18.
In a span of two days on May 9 and 10, eight Macedonian police officers were killed during clashes with an armed group in northern Macedonia’s Diva Naselba neighborhood in the town of Kumanovo. Fourteen gunmen were also killed.
About 30 alleged gunmen from neighboring Kosovo have already been arrested and charged with terror offenses in connection with the Kumanovo incident, which has drawn Russia’s reaction.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the deadly clashes took place as a result of Macedonia’s refusal to be involved in “the policy of sanctions against Russia” by Western powers, which have been accusing Moscow of instigating unrest in eastern Ukraine.
The deadly incident in Kumanovo came just weeks after a police watchtower on Macedonia’s northern border with Kosovo was attacked by 40 gunmen.
The Balkan country of Macedonia, which has seen a number of clashes in recent weeks, is currently grappling with its deepest political crisis since it gained independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991. The government and opposition have been accusing one another of attempting to destabilize the country.
Recent protests against the Gruevski administration began on May 5, after Zaev, the opposition leader, accused the government of attempting to cover up the killing of a protester by police forces back in 2011.