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15 charged in Macedonia over Parliament violence

Demonstrators during a peaceful protest in kopje demanding new elections - EPA

Demonstrators during a peaceful protest in kopje demanding new elections - EPA

01/05/2017 18:39

(Vatican Radio) Police in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia say they have filed criminal charges against 15 people suspected of being involved in a violent attack against Parliament. The development come amid mounting international concern about what analysts view as the most alarming development in the Balkan nation since it lurched into political gridlock more than two years ago. 

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Macedonian police say more than a dozen people have now been charged for "participation in a mob and preventing officials from performing their duties." Months of political tensions boiled over Thursday.

Scores of demonstrators stormed the parliament in the capital Skopje, and attacked several lawmakers. The protesters were angry that an ethnic Albanian deputy was elected speaker. 

Some wearing black masks to hide their faces, were seen throwing chairs, camera equipment, and punches and later continued the clashes outside the building. 

More than 100 people were injured in the violence, most of them protesters. Police officers and about a dozen lawmakers also were injured including the Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev, who was left with blood pouring down his face.

ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTIES

He has created a coalition with ethnic Albanian parties, but his attempts to form a government have been blocked by the president. Macedonian nationalists have been protesting on the streets since Zaev tried to form the coalition.

Elections were held in December 2016 but no government has been formed yet.

Among the demonstrators are supporters of ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's VMRO party, who are demanding new elections. 

Western diplomats have expressed concern that authorities failed to prevent the attack and did not provide the necessary security for lawmakers and journalists present at parliament.

In a statement the heads of the European Union delegation, the U.S. Embassy, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission and the NATO military alliance office in Macedonia said the attack on a state institution "which is at the heart of democracy is an attack on democracy itself." 

RUSSIA BLAMES WEST

But Russia has blamed the West for what it views as meddling in the Balkan nation's internal affairs.

The simmering tensions in Macedonia and the opposing views of powerful nations have led to concerns that the former Yugoslav republic, which narrowly escaped all-out civil war in 2001, could see a wider conflict and become another flashpoint for increasingly frosty relations between Russia and the West.

Amid the turmoil, Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov appealed for calm saying "there are no questions that cannot be resolved through dialogue" and he invited all the leaders of parliamentary parties to come to his office to discuss the situation. 

About 2,000 protesters have gathered in Skopje on Friday to demand new elections they hope will break the country’s political deadlock. The peaceful protest was held outside the European Union mission in Skopje a day after the violent protests. 

Yet there are no signs yet that a political solution will be found for what observers view as this Balkan nation's biggest crisis in years. 

01/05/2017 18:39