Macedonian protesters storm presidential building

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Anti-government protesters in Macedonia have stormed the presidential headquarters in the country’s capital, calling for the resignation of President Gjorge Ivanov amid a wire-tapping scandal.

According to local media, protests turned violent in the Macedonian capital of Skopje late Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for a second day, calling for the ouster of Ivanov.

Demonstrations began with several hundred people chanting “resignation now” but gradually developed into several thousand people marching in multiple places in the city center.

As clashes erupted, protesters broke into the presidential building, smashing office windows and setting fire to the furniture.

“Twelve people were detained and one journalist was injured,” Macedonian police spokesman Toni Angelovski told AFP.

The protests came after Ivanov’s decision to block legal proceedings against former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski who was involved in the wire-tapping of some 20,000 people, including politicians and journalists in February 2015.

Dismissing the allegations, the Macedonian government filed charges against the opposition group and accused it of “spying” and attempting to “destabilize” the country.

The opposition said the phone-tapping exposed government control over journalists, judges, public sector recruitment and the manipulation of elections in Macedonia, which aspires to join both the European Union and NATO.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Ivanov said he was halting proceedings against politicians embroiled in the scandal “in order to put an end to this political crisis” ahead of elections planned for June.

He granted pardons to 56 people from both the ruling parties and the opposition, citing the need for national reconciliation.

The Balkan country is also on the front line of Europe’s refugee crisis, and has been under the spotlight over its use of force to prevent refugees and asylum seekers from crossing its border with Greece.

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