SKOPJE (AFP) - two Russian pranksters famous for hoax smartphone calls have tricked North Macedonia’s high minister into reputedly agreeing to pay a bribe and accusing Russia of having "many spies" inside the Balkans.

Social Democrat prime Minister Zoran Zaev apologised Tuesday over what the right-wing opposition labelled a "scandal" however stated he could now not resign as demanded by way of political competitors.

Zaev addressed journalists after a smartphone exchange with the duo -- pretending to be Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko -- changed into launched on YouTube early Tuesday.

.

Vladimir "Vovan" Kuznetsov and Alexei "Lexus" Stolyarov frequently make prank calls searching for to dupe the rich and effective.

in the call to Zaev, "Poroshenko" presented to assist mediate on independence of the Macedonian Orthodox Church with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, the very best Orthodox authority.

The pair recommended Zaev to bribe the patriarch with a hundred,000 euros ($112,000) to speed up the procedure.

Ukraine’s Orthodox Church has damaged with Moscow and the patriarch formally confirmed the pass in January. At the time Poroshenko turned into Ukraine’s president.

"however, I need to inform you that the simplest circumstance for this, and i did it, I in my view gave Bartholomew money," the faux "Poroshenko" stated inside the call.

"In my case, I paid 150,000 euros, it's far inexpensive for you."

"remarkable, there can be no hassle," Zaev answered.

In some other of 3 cellphone calls which took place between August final yr to this April, Zaev, believing he had NATO Secretary popular Jens Stoltenberg on the line, envisioned that Moscow had "many spies in the vicinity".

"I’m a sufferer of my openness" and "fraudsters from international locations with anti-NATO orientation", Zaev said.

He confident journalists there have been no "safety troubles" arising from the calls.

"Vovan" and "Lexus" have a music document of snaring the unwary, counting amongst their victims Elton John, former British overseas minister Boris Johnson and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

Their preferred objectives are specifically warring parties to the Kremlin, both foreign and Russian.

In April they tricked Kosovo top Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

Russia strongly opposes Skopje’s NATO bid and was additionally towards the change of the u . S . A .’s name from Macedonia to North Macedonia earlier this yr which ended a protracted-jogging dispute with Greece.

Skopje is predicted to go into NATO later this 12 months.