SKOPJE (Reuters) – Former Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski said on Tuesday he had fled to Hungary and was seeking political asylum there, six months after he was sentenced to two years in prison on corruption-related charges.
Macedonian police issued an arrest warrant on Monday for Gruevski, who resigned in 2016 after 10 years in power, after he failed to show up to begin his sentence following a Nov. 9 court ruling against his motion for a reprieve.
On his Facebook page Gruevski wrote that he fled the country after receiving “countless” threats against his life.
“I am in Budapest now and I am seeking political asylum from the authorities of Hungary. I will always remain faithful to the Macedonian cause and will never give up,” his post said.
A Macedonian police official who asked not to be named told Reuters that Gruevski did not leave Macedonia “through a legal border crossing … We are still checking information about where he is”.
Dimce Arsovski, a spokesman for the opposition nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party which Gruevski once led, said he had no information about the ex-premier’s whereabouts. Hungarian officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
On Oct. 20, Macedonia’s parliament ratified an agreement to change the country’s name, bringing a decades-old dispute with Greece one step closer to being resolved.
Eighty deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favour of renaming the Balkan state as the Republic of North Macedonia – just reaching the two-thirds majority needed to enact constitutional changes.
(Additional reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)