The Infomax news site has published an extensive conversation with a person who has met with former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in his exile in Budapest. The name of the interlocutor is not disclosed by the site to avoid exposing him to danger.

In the report, Gruevski is quoted as saying that he was given an offer by the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) to help the Zoran Zaev Government reach the two thirds majority it needs to rename Macedonia into North Macedonia, in exchange for leniency in his court cases.

Gruevski said that both in the summer and shortly before his departure for Hungary, he was given specific offers asking him to publicly support the deal with Greece, or at least to influence several members of Parliament to support the amending of the Constitution, and in exchange the politically driven persecution against him would stop. Gruevski refused this, even though he was fully aware about the consequences he faces, writes Infomax.

At one point, the SPO directly intervened. “Gruevski was invited to the SPO office outside of normal working hours and was offered to become their collaborator. He would provide useful information against some of his associates, primarily Mile Janakieski, Kiril Bozinoski, Gordana Jankuloska and several others, and in exchange the SPO would protect him. Gruevski refused this offer as well. Recently, through a private channel, high SPO officials told him that they’ve ‘given him a chance’ and that he made a mistake in not taking it, but he responded that he can’t help them put innocent people in prison”.

The SPO revenge detained Janakieski, Bozinovski and former UBK secret service head Saso Mijalkov. Gruevski has seen these arrests and unjust and a display of force, and that “you could see from a plane that they are politically motivated”. The three were released from detention as the Zaev Government moved to approve amnesties to former VMRO-DPMNE officials as eight of its members of Parliament agreed to vote to rename Macedonia. Zaev calls this process “reconciliation”.

There can be no reconciliation when you’re using blackmail and political persecution of innocent people, observed Gruevski to the Infomax interlocutor.

The former Prime Minister rejects the notion that he escaped from justice in Macedonia, sayign that the charges against him are clearly driven by a political witch hunt.

What kind of justice did I escape? I never missed a hearing at court. I left the country after the court violated all possible principles and laws and ordered me to prison for a case where I have no wrongdoing. As I was receiving information that there is a plan to assassinate me in prison, I decided to temporarily remove myself, says Gruevski, adding that even a judge observed at one point that he and his colleagues are forced to approve political dictats against Gruevski and that even they would feel safer if Gruevski would leave the country, hoping that with it the pressures against the judiciary would be relaxed.

Gruevski says that he was preparing himself to go to prison, and has withdrawn money from his bank accounts to prepare for the life “inside”. But, as the day neared, he was receiving information that the guards will be unable to protect him among the prison population and that another, lenghtier sentence was planned in the spring, after which he would be sent to the Idrizovo prison among the most dangerous prisoners. Many of them are drug addicts, and would be prepared to do anything to him to curry favor with the Government, says Gruevski. He also rejects the notion that Zaev helped him escape the country.

He would rather drown me himself, says he, adding that leaving the country was simple, and he was careful not to involve close associates who would then face repercussions.

He is also in touch with European politicians, who are interested in the developments in Macedonia. But, ultimately, Gruevski says that he will return to Macedonia, as soon as the political environment allows it.

In Budapest, Gruevski is staying with friends, maintains his fitness regiment and has even dropped the persisent caugh, developed due to the air pollution in Skopje. He notes that the much larger Budapest is far cleaner than Skopje due to the use of natural gas for heating, and regrets that the Zaev Government has not moved an inch in continuing his work to build a gas network across Macedonia. He also notes that no new foreign company has entered Macedonia under Zaev, except for a few who were already in advanced talks with Gruevski’s Government, reports Infomax.

Gruevski is frequently meeting with friends who come from Macedonia. Many of them face reprisals in their workplace after their return to Macedonia. He’s looking into a permanent rental, and has received offers to work as a consultant at various companies, but has refused them so far, until he gets to know the country better. Cafe and restaurant workers frequently recognize the exiled political leader, especially after the Hungarian opposition has tried to ramp up a campaign against Prime Minister Viktor Orban over the approved asylum request. Gruevski says that he has cooperated both with Orban and his predecessors from the left, but that the Hungarian left is strongly influenced by George Soros and is now using Gruevski in its campaigns. Both Gruevski and Orban were outspoken against Soros, his attempts to influence political outcomes in the region and the migrant crisis.