Former VMRO leader and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who was deposed by the SDSM led Colored Revolution and now lives in political exile in Hungary, gave an exclusive interview to Republika in which he discussed the continued persecution of his associates who face threats from the Kumanovo terrorist group. Gruevski discussed the overall security situation in Macedonia and the coordination between the Zoran Zaev Government and the criminal gangs in the country.
– In a matter of four days, four people have threatened you and some of your associates. Do you feel safe?
Gruevski: This is nothing new for me. I have been receiving such threats both publicly and privately for a long time, from this group of terrorists and criminals and from others like it.
– While you were in Macedonia, did you ask the Interior Ministry to act, to protect you from these threats?
Gruevski: Yes. I was solidly protected after I left the Prime Minister’s position but this latest until SDSM took over the Government. Once Oliver Spasovski became Interior Minister I wrote to him, asking him to increase the number of my security detail given the security risks I face after performing the office of Prime Minister. After a while I received a negative response outlining that the security services have estimated that I face no risks, even after some of the threats were sent out publicly. One of the threats came from the UCK group from Kosovo, it was a public proclamation in 2015 or 2016, aimed against me, Saso Mijalkov and our families. On top of this, there are the numerous private threats and threats over the social media, which I receive daily. I expected that I would receive an inquiry regarding my request but I was arrogantly rejected. Their frustration with me has deprived them of their reason.
On top of this, their rejection letter was published in the media, apparently after it was leaked to some of the media outlets. This was done in order to humiliate me, to denigrate me, so that my opponents can gloat at me and that potential attackers would know that I’m reduced to a bare minimal security detail, which was also supposed to be taken away from me. They wanted to portray me as a person who likes having or can’t live without, a security team, as if it is enjoyable to have somebody looking over you all the time, even if it is by most well meaning officers.
I lived to see the country which I fought for and worked for so hard, to which I dedicated the best years of my life and for whose protection I endured tremendous risks which will follow me to the end of my life, now, under the new Government, not only refuses to protect me but also does all it can to put me in harm’s way. This happens when a Government is led by immature people driven by hatred and personal frustrations, instead of a vision for the state.
Still, I have no regrets. I’ve made my choices. But, it should be noted that I’ve warned this is a poor practice and it will come back to haunt those who practice it now. This is not the way mature countries and governments should act.
– When you claimed you’ve received death threats and threats of a possible assassination attempt should you go to prison, was this what you had in mind?
Gruevski: I still can’t talk about it in detail. Publicly sharing such sensitive information might endanger my security even further, and I would also rather not expose the sources of my information.
– The members of the Kumanovo group, who are sending threats via open letters or Facebook posts, claim that four of their group were were tortured and killed by the police after they received OSCE guarantees and surrendered. Have you ordered anything like that or are you aware of that?
Gruevski: This is the first time I’ve heard about it and I have no idea if it is true at all. These are things you can verify. I’ve never asked that somebody be beaten or mistreated after his surrender, let alone to be killed.
I believe that God gives life and only God can take away life.
This, of course, doesn’t apply to instances of self defense or when it must be done to save the lives of innocents from violent people or terrorists. Defending one’s country from terrorists falls under both these categories.
Let’s not forget that that group entered Macedonia illegally, carrying an enormous amount of modern weaponry and, according to the intelligence sources, were planning to perpetrate serious terror attacks targeting shopping malls, bridges and other public sites. This is why they were intercepted by the police.
Several months before the crossed into Macedonia from Kosovo, I was informed that some of these men were trying to extort money from a high ranked Albanian politician and his party. To the best of my knowledge they failed in this, and resorted to threats of a different kind. Regarding the Kumanovo events I received numerous intelligence reports about the goals, demands and the background of the arrival of this group, which was considered to be highly dangerous. The first moment they sent out the message they want to surrender, they were allowed to do so. Noone’s life should be taken unless absolutely necessary, unless he is trying to take away someone else’s life at that given moment. But they proved they are cowards. According to the reports, they made a cowardly gesture, they asked to surrender, the police allowed that, they waved the white flag, came out with their arms raised, and when our police officers stepped from behind their barricades to offer them a chance to life and to accept their surrender, some of their group shot and killed several officers.
This was not a chivalrous move, as some of them want to present themselves now. But, despite this incident, when after a few hours the remaining members of the group also asked to surrender, the police looked besides their cowardly act and again gave them a chance to surrender and be put to a trial. If the police wanted to kill them, they could’ve just refused their plea to surrender, especially after the initial ambush murder of their fellow officers. But, the police acted soberly and humanely in this tense situation.
Given this, I’ve no idea why anybody would kill people who have already surrendered.
– Several days ago, you posted a comment on the “April 27th” investigation, after you were charged with being an organizer of those events. How do you comment the beating of your former ministers in prison?
Gruevski: It appears to me that the Government wanted this beating to happen. They are driven by hatred and their frustrations and have a large group of hateful supporters who, angry with themselves, are only happy when they hear that somebody else is suffering.
Given the drop in SDSM ratings, including among these hateful voters who are largely their party members, the party probably wanted to satisfy these impulses. They were not thinking of the consequences. This is the mark of psychopaths, of people who are senseless to the pain of others. That is the definition of a psychopath.
Take the example of Mile Janakieski. He was sent to house arrest after he made sizable personal property guarantees, which the court accepted. He was taken from house arrest to prison only to have him beaten up the next day. Then they took him to hospitals for two days to be treated, and he was returned to house arrest. Is there any rational explanation why he was taken out of and back into house arrest in a matter of two days, unless it was done solely to have him beaten up? Nothing else changed in his case. Some people think that the beating will break a man’s spirit. Maybe with some men. It is not the case with Mile and Spiro.
Let’s not forget that before the beating of Mile Janakieski and Spiro Ristovski, they also beat up Jane Cento, who is kept in detention along with a group of prisoners for over 15 months.
These traumas inflicted on them, and on all of us in VMRO and beyond will leave consequences which may one day result in new traumas, but this time directed toward the organizers of this undeserved punishment, toward this criminal Government.
In politics, as in life, what goes around, comes around. I’ve no idea what Zaev intends to do with himself in the future, but I would hate to be in his skin. He has taken no actions to protect the country against terrorists because he is now their pet, but many Macedonians will long remember this time. Maybe it sounded overwrought when we first called them “the junta”, but as time goes by, it seems like the people in his Government are doing all they can to justify that designation.
– Why are your former ministers facing physical violence while you faced assassination threats?
Gruevski: Even though it initially seems that the goal was to beat the two of them up, I must say that I’m worried by the part of the press release issued by the Skopje prison, in which they acknowledge that the “quick response by the prison guards” prevented more tragic consequences.
What can be more tragic then a beating which requires hospital treatment? Clearly murder. I don’t know if this is unfortunate phrasing or if the prison administration wants to obliquely say that they have actually prevented the assassination of Janakieski and Ristovski. An unbiased investigation, performed after his puppet regime is out of office, will clear up these questions.
– An SDSM spokesman, but also Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska, claim that you organized the beating of Janakieski and Ristovski.
Gruevski: Yes, Radmila was always known for her lucid comments, and this spokesman kid is a rising star in their brain trust. Of course, he can’t make that statement without his boss asking him to do it or approving it, so I believe this comment came as the result of the work of several “great minds”.
Yes, I communicate with the Kumanovo terrorists telepathically. I also communicate with the “ISIS terrorists” the Government recently said were planning to blow up Skopje. I have them on line as well. I developed telepathic and para-psychological abilities to communicate with prisoners and such people over 800 kilometers.
And yet, so far, my greatest super-power is in getting the SDSM officials to make such crazy statements every day.
I was also able, using only the power of my thoughts, to get them to claim that none of them influenced the hiring of their closest relatives in the public sector. It is just as ridiculous when they say that, as when they spread this conspiracy theory about Spiro and Mile.
Or, maybe I made them give that legendary statement, when Zaev claimed I was kidnapped when in fact I was applying for political asylum in Hungary to get away from the political persecution imposed by the Macedonian authorities.
Or, remember the spectacular press conference Sekerinska made when she presented the spare tires she purchased for the Defense Ministry with all the pomp and circumstance as if she had bought an entire squadron of planes or an aircraft carrier. Can you imagine what will happen when she procures some military software? Software is what makes her even more proud.
All joking aside, I guess SDSM don’t know what to say anymore, seeing how the public responds in resignation to all their moves. In panic, they underestimate the intelligence of the people and spread these senseless excuses to get themselves out of a situation they themselves created, with their crime and their political persecution, which is the main tool of their survival in power.
– So you expect that Zaev will need security in the future?
Gruevski: Not only Zaev, any future Prime Minister. It is a strange system where we provide the President with a security detail for life, which is appropriate, but the Prime Minister, who carries out a far greater number of obligations, and faces far greater risks, only has periodic protection, for the length of his term as Prime Minister. I would advise this Government to change that. Fine, it doesn’t have to apply to previous Prime Ministers like me, let it apply only to the future Prime Ministers. We don’t have to wait to have a former Prime Minister killed in a revenge attack to do the right thing.
Zaev is very rich so he can afford his own security. He has his racketeering money, the criminal money he is raking in today, but there is a lot of difference between private and police security. It is in the training and the authority of the men, in the timely flow of information from the security services regarding possible risks and in the professional approach.
Still, it is much better if a man can live normally, without a security detail. They limit your freedom and privacy. But, when the risks as so great, you can’t think about your personal wishes, you have to act like a mature and responsible country.
We used to have the President drive around in an unsecured vehicle. Then we had the Gligorov assassination attempt and the first armored vehicles were purchased. Then we had high ranking politicians fly around in very old planes. We had the tragedy with President Trajkovski, and a new plane was bought, although it is no longer that new. Lately we see extreme levels of demagoguery, populism and political points scoring over the purchase of a new armored vehicle.
We changed the law to increase the security level of former Prime Ministers, but we were aware of the criticism and we didn’t go far enough. Now a former Prime Minister has a six men detail.
Divide them in shifts, take into account their days off, vacation time, and you realize it is, at the most, two or there people per shift. Professionals will tell you that this is symbolic detail which can’t protect you against risks. But nobody dares speak about this publicly because of criticism from political opponents. We as a nation have yet to develop the necessary sense of statehood. This will not apply to me, I say this for the sake of future Prime Ministers, for the sake of the country. We have a state, and we treat it so immaturely and irresponsibly, as if we don’t deserve it.
– Do you believe you would’ve been treated the same if you had gone to prison?
Gruevski: I don’t think so, I know. Far worse than what happened to the two former ministers. This Government is perpetrating political persecution through the courts and prosecutors, the prisons and detention orders. They don’t care about the means.
There are two reasons why I decided to leave the country and seek political asylum.
Primarily, I faced an African style trial which was a farce. A trial where the verdict was reached even before a judge was officially assigned, a trial which was not about justice but about Zaev accomplishing his election campaign promise to put me in prison – they even made a song about it. All possible laws and procedures were trampled to get to me serve a sentence of at least 20 years, even though I did no crime and there was no evidence against me. Katica Janeva herself told me that, when the Special Prosecutor’s Office was offering me a deal.
You will see I speak the truth when all the cases are finished.
In all these cases I will be given the maximum prison sentence, even though none of them are actual crimes or substantiated with even the most basic form of evidence. I don’t assume this, I have information from inside sources. Even if every other defendant is freed in all my cases, I will still receive the maximum penalty provided by law. This is their arrangement. At least so far.
The second, and probably decisive reason why I left and asked for a political asylum were the threats and the reports I received that an assassination plot is prepared for me in prison.
– Most of these threats come from ethnic Albanians. How do you comment this? What have you don to wrong Albanians so much?
Gruevski: Nothing. I worked so that all will have a better life. But, there are two reasons for this.
One is that I was exposed to a ferocious propaganda campaign in Albanian language media for seven to eight years, portraying me as a person who is against the Albanians and wishes them ill. It was negligent on our part not to counter that propaganda. We saw that this was one to exert enormous pressure on our Albanian coalition partners, so that ultimately the anger would swell so high their votes would be diverted toward SDSM and this party, since it can’t beat us in elections, would at least have a chance to close down the electoral gap if faced with VMRO.
The second is that, while I was Prime Minister, on several occasions the police had undertaken operations against terrorist or combined terrorist – criminal groups which were mainly composed of Albanians. In most of the Albanian language media, and in general among Albanians in Macedonia, these actions were not welcomed with condemnation of the groups, but the groups were seen as some kind of victims and national heroes.
The state security services merely carried out operations which any state would carry out in a situation like that. Imagine any European country where a 40 member group, armed to the teeth, would enter illegally across the border and plan to carry out terror attacks. How should a country respond to that? Any country would act like Macedonia did. But, unfortunately, given this strong propaganda against us, this was presented as some kind of a confrontation with all Albanians as a nation, which was insane. I have a lot of Albanian friends and they know well that I don’t wish ill on the Albanians or any other ethnic group. But as a result of these two things, a negative portrayal of me personally and of VMRO was created among the Albanians.
– Do you now feel safe in Budapest?
Gruevski: To be the leader of VMRO-DPMNE and the Prime Minister means to put your neck on the line from day one. To perform these two functions for as many years as I did means a lot more than that. I realized it then and I realize it now. As far as my current security is concerned, you can never be too sure, but Hungary is a much safer country than Macedonia is today, where we have daily reports of killings, disappearances, beatings.. After SDSM took over, Macedonia is an El Dorado for criminals, racketeers, thieves, extortionists, and terrorists feel like home. And why wouldn’t they, when they see the Prime Minister as an ally, and even a collaborator.
– Do you expect Hungary to accept the new extradition request, given the latest terrorism charges against you?
Gruevski: It would be up to the immigration authorities. Still, I personally don’t believe that, given that Hungary is a state with very strong, professional and responsible institutions. In a word – this is a real state. A sovereign state. The new Government quickly reduced the dignity of the Macedonian state to that of a common street walker.
– You mentioned the word terrorists several times. Since a few days ago you are also charged with terrorism. How do you feel about it?
Gruevski: This is the latest installment in the SDSM driven persecution campaign against me and it is all outside the realm of reality and common sense. I don’t know if the public even understood why I’m charged with terrorism, what was it that I did, what was my crime. Where is the terrorism they charge me with? I’m not a suspect because I organized citizens to enter the Parliament building or because I organized them to physically attack some members of Parliament.
I’m a terrorism suspect because I made a statement, in an interview, which the Government sees as a call to the public to come out and protest. It was made, get this, two whole months ahead of the incident in the Parliament building. Janakieski and Ristovski are charged because they too publicly called on the VMRO members to come out and protest. Not to be violent, not to beat anybody up, but to come out to the streets for peaceful protests.
Even if we imagine it was all true, let’s ask ourselves – in which democratic country can a leader of a party be charged with terrorism simply because he called for protests, and top officials can be charged because they were encouraging the members of their party to come out and participate in protests, all the while none of us ever incited or organized anything that would lead toward an incident.
– Who organized the incident then?
Gruevski: It was this Government. With their unlawful vote for a Speaker of the Parliament precisely at a time when the protests we on-going outside the building. It was deliberately timed to provoke the citizens to fall into a trap, which is now being used to institute real terror, blackmails, arbitrary arrests, trials, to send people to prison and to rule through fear. They want to rule by fear, to be able to do whatever they want, and to accomplish what they promised to do when they were elevated to power against the wishes of the people. They could’ve unlawfully elected a Speaker when there is no-one in front of the Parliament. But they chose to do so when it was most useful to them. From what I know, there was no organizer. The latest expansion of the investigation, with the new suspects and detentions, the prison beating and the drama over the immunity in Parliament, this is all done to begin a new round of political persecution against VMRO and also to deflect the public opinion from the failures and the criminal enterprises of the Government, especially so close ahead of the presidential elections.