Mattis condemns Russia for influence-peddling in Macedonia

September 16, 2018 - 10:32 pm

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is condemning Russian efforts to use its money and influence to build opposition to an upcoming vote in Macedonia that could pave the way for the country to join NATO -- a move Moscow opposes.

Mattis tells reporters traveling with him to Skopje that there is "no doubt" that Moscow has been funding pro-Russian groups in order to defeat the referendum on a name change later this month.

Macedonians will vote Sept. 30 on whether to approve the new name of North Macedonia is an effort to placate Greece, which has blocked Macedonia's path to NATO and the European Union. Any progress toward NATO membership by Macedonia is strongly opposed by Russia, which doesn't want the alliance to expand to areas formerly under Moscow's influence.