The already-grave crisis in Macedonia has been reignited by clashes in the city of Kumanovo, which has resulted in the deaths of 22 people: eight police officers and 14 gunmen who the Macedonian government describe as “Albanian terrorists.”

This conflict has already been ascribed to the latest bout of anti-government demonstrations, the next one scheduled for the end of the week. The EU, NATO, and OSCE have emphasized the necessity of peaceful talks and the participation of all political sides in the face of highly combustable situation.

According to the Ministry of Domestic Affairs of Macedonia, leaders of the ‘terrorist group’ in Kumanovo were five Kosovar Albanians: Sami Ukshini, Beg Rizaj, Dem Shehu, Muhamet Krasniqim, and Mirsad Ndrecaj—former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). Following the weekend of clashes, the situation in the city has normalized and the security forces are now in control. The 30 remaining gunmen have been apprehended by the Macedonian police.

According to the government, the armed group hoped to take advantage of the fragile political situation and further destabilise the country. Whether the speculations about political targets are true or not, it is an undeniable fact that the latest incidents add to the pressure Nikola Gruevski’s government is experiencing. It has fought against a growing wave of skepticism, flamed by Zoran Zoev’s opposition party, which blames the government for corruption.

The Kumanovo incidents have ignited discontent among the Albanian minority in Macedonia, which represents 30 percent of the country’s total population of two million. To the Albanian residents of the city, the declarations from the Ministry of Domestic Affairs are nothing more than an attempt to dismiss Zaev’s accusations. They are determined to attend the anti-government demonstrations, as they put it, “Alive or dead.”

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