Russia says Macedonian parliament vote to back country's name change was rigged

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that a vote in the Macedonian parliament that backed changing the country’s name was rigged through a combination of blackmail, threats and vote-buying.

Macedonia’s parliament on Friday approved a proposal to change the country’s name, bringing a decades-old dispute with Greece one step closer to being resolved, a move that could unblock its bid to join NATO, something Moscow opposes.

“We view what happened as an open violation of all norms, both from a legal and moral point of view. Such dirty manipulations cannot be regarded as an expression of parliamentarians’ will,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

It said that eight votes needed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to enact constitutional changes had been secured “through blackmail, and threatening and bribing opposition deputies”.

Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Alison Williams