By Idrees Ali SKOPJE (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Russia on Monday of attempting to influence the outcome of a referendum in Macedonia on changing the country's name that would open the way for it to join NATO and the European Union. Speaking after talks in Skopje with Macedonia's leaders, Mattis also said the United States was looking to expand cybersecurity cooperation with the small Balkan country. Macedonians will vote on Sept. 30 on a deal reached in June with neighboring Greece that would change the country's name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia. Athens insisted on the change in return for lifting its opposition to Skopje joining NATO and the EU. "We do not want to see Russia doing there (in Macedonia) what they have tried to do in so many other countries," Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Skopje, apparently referring to Washington's concerns about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other polls. "No doubt that they have transferred money and they are also conducting broader influence campaigns," Mattis said, adding it was unclear how effective Moscow's efforts had been. Russia denies the charges of meddling but strongly opposes Macedonia's plan to join NATO. Its ambassador in Skopje has said the country could become "a legitimate target" if relations between Russia and NATO deteriorate further. In July, Greece expelled two Russian diplomats and barred two other people from entering the country for trying to bribe officials and foment demonstrations to thwart the deal with Macedonia. Russia denied Athens's allegations and responded in kind by expelling Greek diplomats. "MALICIOUS CYBER ACTIVITY" Mattis is the latest in a string of Western leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to visit Macedonia and urge its citizens to back the name deal. "... we plan to expand our cybersecurity cooperation to thwart malicious cyber activity that threatens both our democracies," Mattis said, with Macedonia's prime minister and defense minister standing next to him. Mattis also met Macedonia's President Gjorge Ivanov, who opposes the name deal. NATO has invited Macedonia to begin accession talks with the alliance, but says it must first change its constitution and adopt the new name. The EU has also said it would set a date for Macedonian accession talks pending implementation of the deal. Recent opinion polls suggest a majority of Macedonians will support the name deal, though nationalists oppose it. Several thousand Macedonians rallied on Sunday in Skopje in support of the deal and of NATO and EU membership. "There is no alternative for the Republic of Macedonia then integration into NATO and EU," Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Monday, standing beside Mattis. Washington is concerned that Russia is sowing disinformation with the aim of suppressing voter turnout in the referendum and creating an impression that the United States is not committed to the region. "Our approach to disinformation is not to try to counter every single argument... We show by our senior-level visits, our presence, we show by highlighting our cooperative activities," Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, told reporters before the Mattis trip. The United States spends nearly $5 million a year in security assistance for Macedonia and since 1991 has provided about $750 million in total assistance. Macedonia has a few dozen troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led mission. U.S. officials believe Russia accelerated its disinformation campaign in southeast Europe in 2014, the same year it annexed Crimea from Ukraine. "What is in some ways frustrating and maddening about it is, it is so cheap, what they are doing, and it is so effective," said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the CSIS think tank in Washington. "This requires sustained American and European engagement, it (southeast Europe) is a pretty fragile place." (Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Gareth Jones)
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting
- The New York Times
Schanda Handley was at home with her daughter and a neighbor when two men showed up at the door, dressed in what looked like blue uniforms from an appliance store. They had a carpet steamer and asked Handley if they could demonstrate it for her. When she said no, the men forced their way into her house at gunpoint, put a hood over her head and handcuffed her and her neighbor, she said. Then they pushed Handley into a van and drove off, leaving Handley’s 14-year-old daughter and the neighbor behi
- Women's Health
She loves to run—just not on the treadmill.
Driving recklessly comes with consequences…
- Business Insider
'You're all f---ed' up': Trump exploded after his officials warned against using military troops to end George Floyd protests, book says
"Mr. President, that guy had an insurrection," Gen. Mark Milley said as he pointed to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, according to the book. "You don't have an insurrection."
- In The Know
This father was not playing games — but he didn't lose his cool either.
- Business Insider
Trump started speaking in the third person during a heated discussion with Bill Barr regarding the election results, book says
Barr told the AP in an interview last year that the DOJ had "not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election."
Many Twitter users responded to the Ohio Republican's poll with a single damning word.
- Associated Press
Thanks to a reworked menu and long hours, Jeannie Kim managed to keep her San Francisco restaurant alive during the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of next year, California will begin enforcing an animal welfare proposition approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2018 that requires more space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves. Unless the courts intervene or the state temporarily allows non-compliant meat to be sold in the state, California will lose almost all of its pork supply, much of which comes from Iowa, and pork producers will face higher costs to regain a key market.
- Men's Health
The pop star continued to make waves on social media after the recent victories in her conservatorship battle.
- Associated Press
Arizona Republicans’ partisan review of the 2020 election results got off to a rocky start when their contractors broke rules for counting ballots and election experts warned the work was dangerous for democracy. When the auditors stopped the counting and returned the ballots this week, it hadn't gotten better. The review's Twitter accounts were suspended for breaking the rules.
- Business Insider
A World War II Nazi tank discovered in a retiree's basement leads to legal spat. There was also a torpedo and an anti-aircraft gun.
84-year-old also had a horde of Third Reich memorabilia, including a Hitler bust, mannequins in Nazi uniforms, swastikas, and SS rune-shaped lamps.
- Business Insider
I'm a lifeguard in the Hamptons who works private parties at multi-million dollar mansions. This is what my job is like.
Mikayla Mott gets interesting party requests, like being asked to send only "good-looking males" and to have them dress as Oceanus, the Greek Titan god of the sea.
A brown bear attacked a group of campers, eating one and forcing the others to flee barefoot into the mountains
The bear snuck up on hikers and devoured their friend in Ergaki national park in south-central Russia in the second fatal attack in a month.
- Rolling Stone
"Dusty gave me the directive" for band to continue on, Billy Gibbons tells Tuscaloosa audience
- KGO – San Francisco
There are zip codes in five Bay Area cities where vaccination rates are the lowest, with 45 to 60% of the population still not fully vaccinated. Experts say these Bay Area neighborhoods are driving most of the transmission fueling our fourth COVID-19 surge.
- USA TODAY Sports
Baseball's trade deadline is behind us and with two months left to go, a look at which teams have the best shot at a title.
- Harper's Bazaar
The model posed in a series of photos while enjoying a private boat ride along the Amalfi Coast.
- Good Housekeeping
Even if you are vaccinated, you should get tested if you experience any of these telltale signs of infection.
- NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics reportedly have acquired wing Josh Richardson in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks.
- Golf Channel
Tee times and pairings for Sunday's final round of the Olympic men's golf competition in Tokyo.