A new leaked audio recording shows Zoran Zaev in a  conversation with a man who uses a slur for ethnic Albanians, to which Zaev responds that “they” are worthless.

The man, whose voice is obscured, tells Zaev that the Albanians have sent their invoice, likely meaning a set of concessions that need to be given to the Albanian parties, and uses the “sh word” which is widely seen as an ugly slur for Albanians. Zaev responds that “they are worthess”, or in direct translation “not worth five pennies”. Later in the conversation, Zaev adds that their worthlessness was seen in the number of votes they can deliver. “If you want to send an invoice, you must have the goods, right? They don’t have the goods”, Zaev adds.

The man than warns Zaev that the Albanians have fighters, to which he responds that you can hire fighters anywhere.

With a thousand man they were about to take our country, the man says, before Zaev responding that they were fighting for money – all probably referrence to the 2001 civil war.

The tape sounds like previous tapes which Zaev attributed to Aleksandar Verushevski, the son of his security adviser Zoran Verushevski, who helped Zaev grab power by giving him a huge cache of wiretaps that Zaev used against the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party.

Zaev responded quickly to the publication of the audio tape, and insisted that it was the other person in the conversation, not him, who used the slur. He insisted that he always had nothing but respect for ethnic Albanians. Zaev clarified that he was talking about the DUI party, which saw a dramatic reduction in its number of seats in the Parliament in 2016, when several tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians voted for SDSM, and added that at these coming elections he will reduce the number of seats DUI holds even further. The two parties are locked in a fight for the Albanian votes which Zaev hopes will help him reduce his losing margin among ethnic Macedonians.