Disappointed with the West, lacking trust in local leaders, and served a diet of Serbian media, many in North Macedonia are vulnerable to Russia’s wartime propaganda.
When the letter Z, a symbol of support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, appeared on facades in the town of Bitola, in the southwest of North Macedonia, this month, it was a cause of concern for authorities, which promised to investigate.
But it was hardly a surprise.
The long wait in the antechamber of the European Union, first because of a name dispute with Greece and now thanks to Bulgaria contesting the Macedonian identity, has left many in North Macedonia tired of waiting, doubtful of the EU’s good intent, and unconvinced of the bloc’s power to integrate and push the country forward.
For years, the EU, and the West, have been losing leverage. And, for some, Russian propaganda has been filling the void, convincing Macedonians of Russia’s military might, the genius of President Vladimir Putin, the West’s ‘double standards’ in its treatment of Skopje.