Alfa TV reports that Ljupco Palevski – Palco – the key suspect in the gruesome murder of 14 year old Vanja Gjorcevska – reportedly fled to Belarus. The well known businessman and populist politician has been missing and has reportedly fled toward Serbia or Turkey, where he allegedly caught a flight to Minsk. Palevski’s lawyer Vasko Stojkov told Telma TV that he drove Palevski to Belgrade, ostensibly for a medical check, and that he planned to go to Istanbul next.

The rest of the participants in what was apparently a botched kidnapping have reportedly been arrested. They include people active in Palevski’s small party, but also Aleksandar Gjorcevski, the little girl’s father, who is suspected of being involved in the kidnapping scheme, allegedly because of his gambling debts.

Vanja was kidnapped on Monday morning in downtown Skopje, as she was going to school, and according to the prosecutors she was killed just hours later, as the group realized that the police has been alerted. It’s speculated that Palevski was the one who carried out the murder. The group had already murdered one other person the previous week, Pance Zezovski – an elderly man from Veles who knew Palevski – and used his vehicle to snatch the girl. Her body was found in a village north of Skopje. According to state prosecutors, the estranged parents of the girl feuded over some money that the wife recently came by. The father shocked the public by his calm appearance as he was carried to court, where he even made the thumbs up sign to the press.

As for the main suspect, in the mid 1990ies Palevski was head of the SDSM party’s branch in the capital Skopje – a position he used to start a construction business, while also gathering a group of SDSM affiliated journalists around a political magazine. Since then he moved into different businesses, always under the patronage of politicians and police officials, who would use him to spread gossip and rumors in the public. Over the course of the years, given the constant pressures on Macedonia to make concessions with its national identtiy and history, Palevski profiled his politics on the nationalist populist and anti-globalist side, adopting imagery from Macedonia’s ancient past and runic symbols. He would also face legal problems, for forgery, false impersonation, tax evasion.. In 2019, in the aftermath of the Colored Revolution, he was charged with posession of illegal wiretaps – part of the cache of wiretaps secured by former spymaster Zoran Verusevski, that SDSM used to spark the 2015 protests and to grab power. Palevski planned to air the wiretaps in public, much like SDSM did before him, but was charged and forced to stop. The most recent criminal allegation against him was a gun charge during a 2020 incdent, while he was allegedly searching for buried gold.

VMRO-DPMNE official Aleksandar Nikoloski pointed out to Palevski’s political activities and the long list of allegations that were not pressed to the end by the police and the judiciary, as evidence that Palevski is part of a group of populist politicians supported by the Government. The proliferation of such nationalist, populist, pro-Russian parties is believed to be part of a plan to divert anger among ethnic Macedonians at the direction the country is going in, away from the mainstream conservative party VMRO-DPMNE and toward fringe movements that are designed to operate as “opposition to the opposition”, constantly out-flanking VMRO on the right and diluting the vote.