Wednesday, May 22, 2024

INFLUENCE WITHOUT A TRACE: WHO BENEFITS FROM THE DETERIORATION OF SKOPJE-SOFIA RELATIONS?

This intensive propaganda activity has an impact on two fronts: deepening the Skopje-Sofia dispute and reshaping the political scene of North Macedonia.

Author: Xhelal Neziri

Thirty-year-old Darko Todorovski from North Macedonia earlier this year found himself in the spotlight after Bulgarian investigative journalist Hristo Grozev outed him as spreading Russian propaganda in the region. He comes from Dellcheva, a city in the east of North Macedonia, while from 2016 to 2018 he was in Moscow for master’s studies. In the last three years, Todorovski has continued to stay in Russia for doctoral studies. He is active in several social networks, where he defends pro-Russian views. He has published several texts and analyzes promoting Russian narratives about the war in Ukraine and its positions on various regional and global topics. Among the media in the Macedonian language, Todorovski has published more texts on the portal Antropol.mk, which is close to the political party “Levica”. This political party with two deputies in the Assembly has openly opposed NATO and their political opponents accuse them of being close to Russia. According to the data of the Central Registry of North Macedonia, the publisher of the portal is the legal entity “Media Association for Information of Citizens”, whose founders are almost all the members of the Presidium of “Levica”, except for its leader Dimitar Apasiev .

The Bulgarian journalist, Hristo Grozev, has been wanted by Russia since January of this year. No official explanation has been given by Moscow as to why it is being sought. The Government of Bulgaria has also officially requested this information, but has not received any official response. The only official information that is known about this decision of Moscow is the news published in the Russian state agency RIA Novosti, which states that “Grozev had violated the law on the coverage of Russia’s military operations.” This decision corresponds to the period when Grozev came out with accusations that texts with Russian propaganda, written by Russian military intelligence, are being distributed to the Bulgarian media for cash payments of 150 to 300 euros, through the Macedonian Darko Todorovski.

Todorovski, through statements in the Macedonian media, has denied all the accusations. He has already closed his profiles on social networks, while also stopping the publication of authorial texts on the portal Antropol.mk and Bregalnicki.mk. The latter, which is based in Dellčeva e Todorovski, is published by the entity “Atanasov Limited Doel”, owned by Kirço Atanasov. In recent months, the portal has not been active, meanwhile, according to the reports it has sent to the financial institutions of North Macedonia, during the local elections of 2021, Atanasov’s portal has received around 2500 euros in funds for the promotion of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE campaign.

Todorovski, meanwhile, is no longer so active in the media of the country and the region. His last text was published on the Antropol portal, and is entitled “The End of Europe – Together with Russia on the path of multipolarity”. This, in fact, is the title of the book by the Russian author Valery Korovin, which Todorovski reviews. “Russia, as a separate civilization, the successor of Byzantium and Byzantine Orthodoxy, which is the basis of Russian citizenship, is developing according to its own civilizational model, with its own values ​​and traditions. But Russia, at the same time, took the best of Eastern and Western civilizations and adapted it to its own civilizational model. Throughout history, Russia has never tried to impose its civilizational model, its values ​​on Western Europe and has not claimed that they are universal and that they should be spread throughout the world, unlike the West, which has its own models. civilizing forces imposed by force, and today it is trying to make neoliberal values ​​global. Russia has its own historical path, and the West has its own historical path,” Todorovski wrote.

At the end of March, he appeared as an expert in the vlog of Milendko Nedelkovski, a controversial journalist in North Macedonia with strong anti-Western views. In this interview, Todorovski says that “the war between Russia and Ukraine is in fact a war between Russia and the West”, stressing that the same could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. He defends Iran and considers the sanctions against this country illegal as they do not have the approval of the United Nations. “I have visited all the places of war in Ukraine. In these two years, I have passed through all these areas…”, he says. Todorovski is seen reporting for several local television stations in North Macedonia, thus spreading Russian propaganda on events from the war zones of Ukraine.

Neither in North Macedonia nor in Bulgaria is there a transfer of funds through official financial systems from Russia. In North Macedonia, there is not even a single medium owned by a Russian citizen or business. The case of Todorovsky shows the sophisticated way of influence through ready-made experts and analyses, which continue to be distributed in the media in order to spread the “Russian truth” about Ukraine.

 

 

This intensive propaganda activity has an impact on two fronts: deepening the Skopje-Sofia dispute and reshaping the political scene of North Macedonia. VMRO-DPMNE and Levica are the two parties in the ethnic Macedonian bloc that show continuous growth in support. At the same time, Macedonian voter apathy is growing, which strengthens the extreme political parties even more. Polls show another dangerous trend: the loss of faith that democracy can solve their problems. The latest IRI survey says that almost half of the citizens think that there is another system better than democracy. In the question of “do you believe that democracy is the best form of government or not”, only 51 percent answered positively. According to age groups, only 48 percent of citizens from 18 to 55 years have expressed that democracy is the best system, while the rest think that another form of government is the same or better than democracy. This means that there is fertile ground in the country for the strengthening of extreme political, ideological or religious forces, which are essentially populist, and which can produce unpredictable situations in the country. This apathy is, among other things, the result of Russian influence, which supports those political forces. 

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