Russia accuses NATO, EU and Albania of meddling in Macedonia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia accused Albania, NATO and the European Union on Thursday of trying to impose a pro-Albanian government on Macedonia, gripped by political crisis.

A day earlier Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov refused to allow a coalition of Social Democrats and parties representing the country’s big ethnic Albanian minority to form a government because of their pledge to allow wider official use of the Albanian language.

Ivanov’s move, made during protests of Macedonians against the coalition in the capital Skopje and towns where ethnic Macedonians are a majority, was criticized by the European Union.

“With active cooperation of the EU and NATO officials, an ‘Albanian platform’ created in Tirana, in the office of the (Albanian) prime minister, is being imposed on Macedonians,” a statement by the Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday.

It alleged that such a move was testimony to Albania’s claims over “wide regions” of Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece as part of a project to create a so-called Greater Albania.

Russia refuses to recognize the 2008 independence of predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo from Moscow’s ally Serbia, and strongly opposes neighboring Montenegro’s NATO membership.

Tensions between Macedonia’s Slav majority and ethnic Albanian minority reached the brink of civil war in 2001, before diplomatic intervention by the EU and other powers defused the situation.

In a December snap election, the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE narrowly beat the Social Democrats, but neither was able to form a government without parties of ethnic Albanians, who make up a third of the population.

After months of talks, Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev last week won the support of three ethnic Albanian parties and conceded some of their demands.

One was for a bill allowing wider use of the Albanian language, a request backed by ethnic Albanian parties from different Balkan countries when they met in the Albanian capital Tirana after the December election.

Macedonian nationalists including former prime minister Nikola Gruevski say the Albanian demand would lead to cantonisation of the country along ethnic lines.

Moscow’s statement on Thursday also accused Kosovo of meddling in Macedonian affairs and said the West wanted to bring “the defeated opposition” to power.

“It is necessary to stop external intervention in Macedonia’s internal affairs,” it said.

Editing by Andrew Roche