How the portal Sputnik – the Kremlin’s mouthpiece – reported on the Macedonian elections?

Published on:

Two leitmotivs were part of most analyses and articles related to the elections in North Macedonia, seen through the prism of pro-Russian Sputnik. The first is that foreigners are pressing North Macedonia, and the second is that the pressure exerted came from the Albanians. This rhetoric is being supported by carefully selected national analysts – Risto Nikovski being one of the most dominant 

Author: Miroslava Simonovska 

The first round of the Presidential Elections in North Macedonia was extensively covered by the Russian state-owned portal Sputnik (Serbian language edition). Apart from standard reports of election results, the portal covered foreign policy-related issues of the country towards Russia and the European Union. Inevitably, Macedonia was presented either as the victim of internal or external forces or also as a country assaulted by the Albanians. 

The choice of Sputnik’s guests writing the articles hold anti-European attitudes or stereotypical present negative EU expressions. One such example is the analysis by Risto Nikovski, former Ambassador of the Yugoslav Federation, but also of the Republic of Macedonia in several countries worldwide. He claims that the foreign policy of North Macedonia will change if the candidate Gordana Siljanovska Davkova wins the elections and that the change will be significant concerning Bulgaria and the European Union. 

Nikovski in Sputnik’s article also talks about the relations with Russia by saying that ”Brussels is blackmailing N. Macedonia”. The way his position is presented not only to the Serbian public, but also to the audiences of the Western Balkan region, through a Russian state-owned medium is as though the country was inferior and immature, governed by the West, and even depicted as a puppet. 

…I believe there will not be space enough to change the politics towards Russia, because Brussels, just like Washington, is blackmailing. However, I do think that it is very important for Moscow to realize that Macedonia is a puppet in the hands of the great powers and the Albanians that are under their protection and that they are doing whatever they want. If Moscow opens the space for better understanding, our policy will gain “weight” towards Russia positively, stated Nikovski for Sputnik. 

That is not the only Sputnik article featuring Nikovski as the main analyst cited in the article. In another article, he promotes a dramatic scenario related to the ”survival or disappearance of North Macedonia” even though the country is a free and sovereign state whose existence is not threatened. 

The upcoming Parliamentary Elections in North Macedonia are so important because they will determine whether we shall exist or disappear as a nation and state, claims Nikovski for Sputnik. 

The classical rhetoric about North Macedonia being a country assaulted from all sides, with many enemies was not omitted, naturally favoring VMRO-DPMNE as the state protector. 

These elections might be key for our future because we have been attacked both by Bulgaria and by the Albanians. Unfortunately, Macedonians are not united, and foreign forces are abusing that. The turnout needs to be high to preserve the state. That implies victory for VMRO-DPMNE in these elections, and if they win, very difficult work awaits them, believes Nikovski. 

As Sputnik’s interlocutor, he expresses the opinion that this election process is somehow controlled by America, stressing that ”if the election process does not go the way America likes, the foreign factor publicly supporting SDSM and DUI might get involved indirectly”. 

Skopje is full of foreign services that can “get anything they want” from our internal issues and I am afraid that they might interfere in the upcoming events. If that happens, then I think we will not survive as a nation, states Nikovski. 

Anti-Albanian messages and hinting that some kind of foreign factor has interfered in the elections are also the essence of other Sputnik articles. 

North Macedonia is presented as a country whose internal policy is created by external political factors based on theses that are unreliable even for Sputnik’s interlocutor himself – whether they are true or not. Nevertheless, he expresses them thereby creating public opinion in Serbia and wider. For example, he says: 

”New order from NATO-masters; Macedonia is changing its name again because of Serbia” in an article published on the 16 of April, adding: 

They were mentioning an American diplomat bringing a non-paper whereby forbidding Albanian parties to extend any kind of support to VMRO-DPMNE if victorious. In other words, if the government depends on the Albanian parties, then they should not give their votes to this party. It remains a mystery whether such a directive was delivered to the Albanians, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true, says Nikovski for Sputnik. 

Unlike such claims, foreign pressures were not evident in the pre-election period, nor has any political subject complained about such a thing after the first round of the Presidential Elections. US Ambassador, Angela Aggeler sent a simple and neutral message without favoring any side but reiterating the democratic rights of the citizens and their voting freedoms. 

Citizens and voters of this country should ask difficult questions about the candidates, and after that, those voters should vote. They must go out there and elect the candidate that reflects their dreams for the future. Nothing is to be achieved by not voting, stated Aggeler. 

All political parties, to a large extent, agreed that the elections were implemented in a fair and democratic environment with minor violations. 

The second round of the Presidential Elections is scheduled for the 8th of May together with the Parliamentary Elections. During the first round Sputnik promoted the thesis that there existed foreign influence and pressure for EU membership and that, allegedly, such influence was applied by the ambassadors. This thesis can be found in Macedonian media, as well, related to the Constitutional amendments and the inclusion of the Bulgarians therein. 

RT Balkan, a Russian state-controlled media outlet, reported that while the elections received less coverage compared to Sputnik, they suggested a hypothesis that Albanians would elect the president, even though all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, were participating in direct elections for the presidency. Such an example is: ”Elections in North Macedonia, Albanians deciding the new president?”. 

Nevertheless, RT has a special place for the presidential candidate Biljana Vankovska who gave an interview for the medium stressing the hypocrisy of the West, and stating that Macedonia was a Western colony: 

After 33 years of “alleged independence”, Macedonia is in the European sub-periphery as a Western colony with inhabitants who are the poorest and most miserable in Europe and with an enormous brain-drain, stressed Vankovska who advocates the exit of N. Macedonia from NATO, reports RT. 

Anti-Albanian thesis is present in Sputnik thereby promoting a divided state and alienation. Yet, the elections were assessed as fair and democratic by all political subjects, whereas the turnout of the citizens was extremely high, and they voted in accordance with their conviction, obvious from the small number of registered incidents.