Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevksi held a press conference on Thursday where he thanked opposition leader Zoran Zaev for releasing recent wiretaps leaks, saying that he was very pleased with their releases which indicated the government has played no role in the death of journalist Nikola Mladenov two years ago.
“For two years we have been living with public and semi-public speculation and conspiracy theories that God knows what happened to him [Mladenov] by the authorities and that we might have done something contributing to his demise. Today, I want to thank [Zoran] Zaev for releasing these materials – no matter how much they have been altered by him. All those who have or will listen to the audiotapes, will learn that the authorities had no role whatsoever in the tragic accident that killed Nikola Mladenov,” Gruevksi said.
Opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) party leader Zoran Zeav had organised an earlier press conference on Thursday, where he played wiretaps relating to the car accident that killed Mladenov in 2013.
Releases of wiretap recordings have been causing civil unrest in Macedonia recently, with the Macedonian opposition gathering some 2,000 Macedonians outside the state headquarters in Skopje on Tuesday where they called for the resignation of the Prime Minister Gruevski after another release of phone records from Zaev.
According to the wiretaps, Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska and some government officials tried to cover-up the death of 22-year-old Martin Neskovski, who investigators believe was beaten to death by an interior policeman in June 2011.
At least 38 policemen were injured in the two-hour clash, during which the demonstrators set rubbish containers on fire and threw stones at police officers who were guarding the building, Interior Ministry officials stated.
Prime Minister Gruevski spoke on TV on the second day of the protests, calling on Macedonians to put aside the comments of opposition leader Zaev during his press conference and to be calm and reasonable.
“The purpose of Zaev is destabilising the country, it is obvious that Zaev is aware that he cannot in the normal way - with ideas, programs, with a normal political approach - come to power” he said.
Opposition members to change sides
While the protests continued, opposition party member Ratko Grkov quit the SDSM and joined Gruevski’s party VMRO-DPMNE. He also said he believed that the wiretaps and documents from Zaev were fake.
"The SDSM lost multiple elections in a row for a reason. Its leadership never had the courage to recognise the massive defeats and are now calling for civil war. I for one, cannot be part of a party that relies only on manipulations, lies, and whose current leadership behaves like bloodthirsty hyenas who through manipulations are trying to provoke a conflict so they can illegally usurp power," Grkov said.
A former SDSM member, Mihail Mladenovski, also claimed that the SDSM hired violent thugs to attack police.
Zaev was previously named among a list of suspects accused by the prosecutor’s office of planning a “coup” against the government.
Zaev presented the wiretapped recordings of judges and government officials at a press conference, allegedly containing damning information that ministers and government officials tried to commit electoral fraud.
He added that his party has more than 100,000 conversations and 18,000 text messages that imply corruption and he is willing to share them with the public and prosecutors.
Prime Minister Gruevski denied the allegations and implied that there was a foreign-funded plot against him and his government to prevent it from moving towards EU negotiations.