BELGRADE (Reuters) – Macedonians are flocking to the internet in order to stay informed and to get some peace of mind after more than 400 refugees were killed by police and border guards on Monday in riots across the Balkans.
Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov (2nd R) sits next to his security chief Petar Chovanec (L), at a memorial service for refugees killed in the riots, before the opening of the official state funeral, in Skopje June 27, 2014. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic
Thousands of Macedonians are now logged on to Twitter, which hosts the most widely used social media website in the Balkans, while the country’s prime minister and its foreign minister took to Facebook early on Tuesday morning.
“You should take every chance that you get with social media and be on the internet. You need to be on the internet, not in the car,” said Nikola Gruevski, a former deputy prime minister, at a security conference in Belgrade.
But despite a heavy police presence at the event, security was not as rigorous as in previous years before the conflict flared up between ethnic Albanians, who have dominated Macedonia for centuries, and ethnic Macedonians, who call themselves Macedo-Macedonians.
The rioting on Monday was sparked by a group of refugees who had been held in the northern city of Salo after the Serbian government accused them of making illegal border crossings. The rioters threw eggs and water at Macedonian police, setting buildings ablaze and burning down tents and cars.
Macedonia’s main opposition Social Democratic Party (SDSM), which is opposed to both the Balkan wars and to NATO membership, blamed the violence on an “aggressive government whose policies were made possible by a Balkan crisis”.
The country’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (R) speaks to his head of state, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, during a security conference in Belgrade June 27, 2014. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic
“People who feel under pressure by the current situation do what they can. But if the current situation is not resolved, people can only say ‘let’s go crazy’,” party spokesman Zoran Zaev told Balkan Insight.
In Macedonia, the government accused the refugees of trying to break through police lines and of starting fires