Former FYR Macedonia 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.
FYR Macedonia 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 November 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 FYR Macedonia police official who asked not to be named told Reuters that Gruevski did not leave FYR 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.
A Hungarian government spokesman said he could neither confirm nor deny Gruevski’s remarks. “We are unable to comment on individual asylum claims which are still being processed,” he said in an email.
On October 20, FYR 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 favor of renaming the Balkan state as the Republic of North Macedonia – just reaching the two-thirds majority needed to enact constitutional changes.