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Pendarovski: Russian diplomats were spying, expulsion was inevitable
The President of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, said on Saturday that the decision of the state authorities to expel three Russian diplomats was inevitable.
In an interview for the Voice of America in the Macedonian language, Pendarovski said that "the state had no other choice but to deport them".
"All competent services, such as foreign intelligence and internal intelligence, had a joint report on the activities of the three diplomats and the decision of the head of state was necessary. It was very clear that they were not engaged in diplomatic activities as foreseen by the Vienna Convention", stated Pendarovski.
The Russian diplomats, according to an announcement from the Russian Embassy in Skopje, were expelled on September 15, while the decision was announced on September 16 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia.
For Russia, the declaration of three diplomats as undesirable is an "irresponsible and hostile act, which will not go unpunished".
President Stevo Pendarovski, in the interview for the Voice of America, has said that in the last two years, North Macedonia has expelled 18 Russian diplomats, who, as he said, "had the status of a diplomat, but who were engaged in espionage activities ".
"In all cases, the Macedonian services, with the help of the partner services from the NATO alliance, proved to the last letter that they went beyond the status given to them as diplomats in North Macedonia, so they were not diplomats and that's why they were expelled", said Pendarovski.
He said that he expects the Russian side to respond to the actions of the Macedonian side.
In addition to the three Russian diplomats, North Macedonia also declared a Russian cleric, Archimandrite Vasian Zmeev, a person non grata. He was a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate that also covered Bulgaria.
The same decision was taken by Sofia, also declaring it undesirable on the grounds that it represents a "threat to national security".
After the Russian aggression against Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, North Macedonia, as a member of NATO and an aspirant for membership in the European Union, joined the Western countries that condemned the aggression and imposed sanctions against the Russian Federation.
North Macedonia has also provided military assistance to Ukraine in several cases./ REL