Pranked by Russian comedians, a recording of the North Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev unveiling details on the border change discussions between Kosovo and Serbia’s presidents, among others, was released on Tuesday.
Targeted by Russian pranksters, North Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev revealed information on the hidden discussions between Kosovo’s President, Hashim Thaci, and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksander Vucic, concerning border changes, the perils of Russian meddling in the Balkans and the implications this would have across European soil.
During the prank phone call, the North Macedonian PM was convinced he was talking to the former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko.
The Russian satirists, also known as Vovan and Lexus, are well known for pranking celebrities and various politicians over the phone. They have also pranked French President Emmanuel Macron, the famous British singer Elton John, the former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and other well-known public figures.
Poroshenko was Ukranian president from 2014 to 2019 and lost to actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019 in a presidential election campaign that gripped the world.
During the 54 minute recording, Zaev complained to who he thought was the Ukranian president about the land swaps between Kosovo and Serbia, calling the idea an imminent threat to the region. According to Zaev, the swaps are being initiated by Thaci and Vucic, but also backed by Russia.
“The president of Serbia and the president of Kosovo began negotiations over sharing territories and changing borders, and we are very much against it. Even Chancellor [Angela] Merkel is against it, and the whole region is against it, because we feel that there is a hidden intention from Russia to use them as international practice,” said Zaev.
North Macedonia, one third of which is comprised of an ethnic Albanian population, shares a border with both Kosovo and Serbia.
Zaev spoke openly about a concrete plan that Thaci and Vucic have in mind as part of the land swap, something the Macedonian PM calls a “solution.”
“Ten municipalities in the northern part of Kosovo are to be given to Serbia and a few municipalities of southern Serbia are to be given to Kosovo,” said Zaev to the fake Poroshenko, before warning him about the consequences such a solution would produce across the rest of the Western Balkans.
Zaev said that border changes are “not possible,” because even after the borders are redrawn, Albanian and Serbian ethnic groups would continue to live across both countries, which would “produce wars.”
In north Kosovo, there are four municipalities predominantly inhabited by Kosovo Serbs which have been subject to the idea of territorial changes.
The phone call between the comedians and Zaev occurred at the end of August 2018, but was not released until Tuesday. In August 2018, the Kosovo President publicized his discussions on territorial changes between Kosovo and Serbia, which he famously referred to as “border correction.”
During minute 20 of the phone call, the Russian prankster asked Zaev if he could connect Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, into the phone call. Indulged, Zaev immediately agreed to be part of the group call between himself, fake Poroshenko and fake Stoltenberg.
Zaev began to raise concerns with Stoltenberg over the idea of the border changes between Kosovo and Serbia, and the Russian influence on the issue. “We are very afraid of what happens here in the Balkans, and we have the complete support of Madame Merkel directly. We have tried to discuss this also in the European Union, because as you know, the Balkans is multiethnic and that [border changes] would open Pandora’s box,” said Zaev.
The pranksters also asked the Macedonian PM for a favor during the recording: to put them in contact with Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.
“I will send you his mobile phone through Whatsapp, because he is available on Whatsapp,” Zaev quickly responded to the request of the pranksters.
“I would like this, because then we can resist Russia together,” replied the pranksters.
At one point during the conversation, the comedian posing as Poroshenko bragged to Zaev that he has discovered family ties between him and the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, to which Zaev oddly responded that he had heard about this before.
The social democrat leader confirmed on Tuesday that he was pranked and apologized, but refused the idea of resigning as a result, which political opposition party VMRO-DPMNE in North Macedonia demanded.
During the phone call, the North Macedonian PM also spoke about the referendum on the long-standing dispute about his country’s name with Greece, the accession of North Macedonia to the European Union, the threat of Russian meddling in the Balkans, history and other matters.
10 July 2019 - 10:20
In a joint press conference, Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj an...
The agreement on the Macedonia name dispute shows that political will ...
The crisis that erupted out of the Macedonian government’s practice ...
A thirst for power is the driving force behind the revival of ethnic t...