Lavrov: Moscow does not oppose the new name for Macedonia, but there is the issue of legitimacy

Moscow does not oppose the new name for Macedonia, but there is the issue of the legitimacy of the ongoing process, which may be due to the goal of driving all the Balkan countries into NATO as soon as possible, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“We have always actively supported this dialogue [between Greece and Macedonia]. We have always spoken for a solution to be found in a way that would be acceptable to the public, nations, and certainly the governments of both Greece and Macedonia,” Lavrov said at a press conference.

“We do not oppose the name that eventually appeared and was announced. We ask questions about how legitimate this process is and how much it really is conditioned by the desire to find a consensus between Greece and Skopje, or it is conditioned by the US desire to drive all Balkan countries into NATO as soon as possible and stop any Russian influence in that region”.

Macedonia’s parliament passed an amendment to the constitution on Friday to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia, under an agreement with Greece to put an end to a 27-year-old dispute between the neighboring countries. Resolution of the name issue could unblock Macedonia’s bids to join NATO and the European Union.

Russia’s President Putin also said during his visit to Belgrade that there is pressure from outside that persists towards Macedonia’s NATO membership.

The policy of the US is seriously destabilizing the situation in the Balkans, and Russia will continue to develop military and technical cooperation with Serbia, Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of his visit to Serbia, answered questions from Serbian media.

Asked to comment on statements by Western politicians that Russia is a destabilizing factor in the Balkans, and how he sees relations between Russia and other former Yugoslav republics, Putin said: “As for the situation in the Balkans, a serious destabilizing factor there is the policy of the US and some other Western countries aimed at securing their dominance in the region. As early as in 1999 NATO forces – without any UN authorisation –bombed Yugoslavia for two and a half months and forcedly detached the Autonomous Province of Kosovo. And in 2008, Washington and its allies supported the illegitimate declaration of Kosovo’s independence. In 2017, despite the stance of half of its population, Montenegro was absorbed into NATO. The authorities did not risk holding any relevant referendum – as a result, the country is suffering political instability.”

“To ensure an accelerated accession of the Republic of Macedonia to NATO even the process of constitutional amendment and State renaming was launched last year along with the revision of the foundations of Macedonian national identity. However, the will of the Macedonian voters was ignored – the referendum on changing the State’s name failed but the pressure from outside persists.

Our country, knowing and understanding all the complexity of the Balkans and the region’s history, has always regarded it as space for constructive cooperation. Today, Russia has many friends here, among whom our strategic partner Serbia occupies a special place. Thus, our unconditional priority is to contribute to enhancing regional security and stability. We support respect for the rights and interests of the Balkan countries and peoples as well as for international law,” said President Putin.