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    Protests and Violence Erupt in Macedonia (20)
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    The leader of a Macedonian opposition party has been charged with attempting to blackmail the country's prime minister and to take over the government; Russia demands a thorough investigation into the alleged plot.

    MOSCOW, February 1 (Sputnik) — The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday calling for a detailed investigation into the alleged coup attempt in Macedonia.

    "We hope that a thorough investigation of the incident is conducted in order to ensure stability and security in Macedonia," a statement published on the Ministry's website on Sunday noted. "We call on all political forces in the country to act within the constitutional framework of democratic institutions in order to resolve problems through dialogue," the Ministry added. "The aggravation of the situation in friendly Macedonia may result in the danger of exacerbating existing ethnic tensions."

    The Ministry's comments come amid statements by the Macedonian Prime Minister and the country's law enforcement authorities that they have prevented a coup attempt from being instigated by the leadership of the Social Democratic Union (SDU), in collusion with foreign intelligence services.

    Conservative IMRO-DPMNU Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has accused Zoran Zaev of the SDU of attempting to blackmail him by threatening to release allegedly compromising telephone conversations between top government officials, some of them edited, apparently recorded with the help of unknown foreign intelligence operatives.

    The Macedonian Ministry of Internal Affairs has charged Zaev and three coconspirators of "an attempt to endanger the constitutional order and [an] undemocratic takeover" of power, a "violation of citizens' will." Zaev has been ordered not to leave the country and has been questioned by an investigative judge, but has not been arrested.

    On Saturday, Gruevski publically accused Zaev, whose party has been boycotting parliament over allegations of electoral fraud in the country's April 2014 elections, of attempting to blackmail him. Gruevski noted that in four face-to-face conversations between September and November, Zaev had demanded that the former resign as Prime Minister, form a transitional government and call snap elections, Rossiyskaya Gazeta explained.

    "We are talking about a lot of damage to the [reputation] of the country, inflicted according to a prepared scenario," Gruevski noted, noting that "I could not believe that a man who wants to lead the state is cooperating with foreign intelligence services."

    "Blackmail and threats do not work on me, and I do not accept them," Gruevski stated. "To all participants of this conspiracy, I would like to point out that we are not 'Makedonchiki' [diminutive], we are Macedonians!"

    Gruevski noted that the trial will be open and public, and that he will personally answer all questions addressed to him during the course of the hearing. He noted that he was confident that "the truth will come to light, because we have irrefutable evidence."

    Former intelligence head Zoran Verusevski has also been arrested in connection with the case; police have seized illegal weapons, computers, and mobile phones from his residence.

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    Protests and Violence Erupt in Macedonia (20)

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    coup, election fraud, Macedonia
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