The government is preparing a new protocol for secure communication after the prank with the duo of Russian comedians, who have talked to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev over the phone on several occasions, posing as Petro Poroshenko (Ukraine’s former President) and Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General). The document is under preparation, but experts involved in the process explain that controls will be strengthened for all those who will ask to speak to the president of the government.
” All classic methods will be used: who is calling, why they are calling, the phone number will be checked, their identity will be checked, that is, all necessary details to reach the red level of security that ensures that everything is clear and safe, government sources told Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent Daily newspaper.
The counter-intelligence officers that our paper consulted indicate that security in communications can be enhanced if the presidents interact with ‘scrambled” phones that minimize the possibility of recording and subsequent abuse of the conversations.
“The condition is that the two persons who are having a conversation, or several people if it is a conference call, own such type of phones. That way, uninvited guests, that is, eavesdroppers, would waste their time because they would only listen to bird sounds. This is an option that is used throughout the world, even when two prime ministers or presidents have good mutual relations, and their conversations go to a private level, not only just state level, so they should not be afraid that someone is listening to them, or as in the latest case – that they are being pranked,” the counter-intelligence officers point out.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Zaev stressed that despite the gaffe with the Russian pranksters Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, he will continue to communicate directly with presidents and prime ministers.
” I am an open person and I have no intention to ask for permission from some protocol next time I will call Borissov or any prime minister or president. North Macedonia is a friend of all countries. I communicate with everyone because I think it is helpful for our country. Communications bring information and they help in the decision-making, growth and progress of my country. There is no protocol that can limit me if I want to call Prime Minister Haradinaj, Prime Minister Branbic, or call Prime Minister Plenkovic or anyone else in our entire region,” PM Zaev said.
The prime minister stressed that this, however, is an alarm to raise the level of work of protocols when making calls through government telephones, but pointed out that he will continue to communicate by telephone, as well as Viber, WhatsApp and through all other applications.
He admitted that he had made several calls to the comedians himself, thinking that it was really Poroshenko or Stoltenberg on the other side of the line.
“It was only after the recorded conversations were released on social media, I realized I was deceived,” the prime minister said openly.
Zaev added that he did send photos fromGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the country, and, in return, fake “Poroshenko” sent him photos of the military parade in Ukraine.
Shekerinska: We would have prevented the prank if we acted like Mijalkov
Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska, does not see responsibility or guilt in the prime minister or people working in the protocol. She thinks the services could not have reacted to stop the conversation with the fake Stoltenberg and Poroshenko. The Defense Minister says that the country needs to get used to being a target of different hybrid, cyber and other attacks aimed at threatening North Macedonia’s bid to join NATO
“Do you know how the services could have prevented such a thing? If they did what Sasho Mijalkov did. By listening all of the prime minister’s conversations and analyzed them,” Sekerinska says and asks if anyone has taken responsibility when high state officials were also pranked by the two Russian comedians in NATO and France.
Such hybrid warfare and threats are not new, and we would need to be quick to respond to them, Shekerinska pointed out during her visit to the pilot training center in the Petrovec army barracks on Wednesday.
Rules of fair play don’t apply here, she said noting that the same instrument had also been used with NATO Secretary General, the French President and many other high officials in international politics.
“These attacks and threats will continue. Our country’s security has not been destabilized in this particular attack, so our strategic priorities have not been threatened. However, we need to completely rebuild our security culture,” said Minister Shekerinska.
Kuznetsov: Zaev makes childish excuses
Russian comedian Vladimir Kuznetsov, who was involved in getting Zoran Zaev to speak about sensitive regional matters, responded to Zaev’s press conference in which Zaev called the comedians pranksters who want to undermine North Macedonia’s NATO goals.
In his non-apology press conference Zaev also said that he will upgrade his means of communicating with world leaders.
“He makes childish excuses. The recording we provided is the original. We can send it to anyone for examination in North Macedonia. How will he upgrade his communication? Maybe he will update his phone? He needs to upgrade the brain, not the device,” Kuznetsov said in response to PM Zaev’s press conference.
Janushev: There must be responsibility
“Zoran Zaev must take responsibility. There must be responsibility from dozens of incompetent ministers and advisers that surround him, because Zaev undermines the reputation and positions of the Republic of Macedonia, not just his family businesses,” said Igor Janushev, VMRO-DPMNE’s Secretary General.
According to him, the justification for scandalous disclosure of state secrets, information from high-level meetings, and the acceptance to pay a bribe to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew shows how inaccessible, criminogenic and shallow Zaev and the team around him are.
“If Zaev was a target of services that work against Western values and NATO, his behavior shows that he and the government do not have the capacity to be equal partners in the Alliance, and the bodies and alliances that the Republic of Macedonia is striving for. Imagine just what would happen when some two skilled members of a terrorist organization would turn to Zaev and present themselves, for example, as political attachés. Zaev and his advisors with the capacity they do not have would issue the positions and tasks of the Macedonian soldiers participating in peacekeeping missions as part of the global Alliance,”Janushev said and urged the prime minister to resign and organize snap elections.