By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Macedonian police have arrested a man aged 67 in relation to Thursday’s failed assassination attempt on the former health minister, Nikola Todorov.
Macedonia’s ministry of interior said police had arrested a 67-year-old named as Lj. S., from the village of Dolno Kalaslari, near the town of Veles, shortly after he was believed to have fired two gun shots in the direction of former health minister Nikola Todorov.
Police confirmed that Todorov, a senior official in the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party, survived the attack uninjured and that no one suffered any injuries. The attack took place around 12pm in front of the health ministry in Skopje.
The man under arrest is reportedly the grandfather of a nine-year-old who died in 2015 while waiting for the Health Fund to decide whether to pay for her treatment in Turkey, her mother Zaklina Dimovski told Fokus weekly.
“I am shocked … Nothing suggested he was planning such a thing. I don’t know where he found a gun. There is revulsion in the family [over the child’s death] but nobody thought of such a thing … I condemn the violence, even though he was my father,” Zaklina Dimovska said.
The girl’s death in February 2015 from a severe curvature of her spine sparked protests and calls for Todorov to resign. Protesters dubbed him “The Minister of Death”. However, Todorov denied responsibility and did not resign.
The attempt on his life happened as the former health minister was preparing to enter the ministry where he was supposed to hand over his post to his successor, Arben Taravari, from the new Social Democrat-led government.
The attacker reportedly reached at Todorov from relatively close proximity as he was standing at the entrance of the ministry, pointing the gun towards his head and trying to say something to the former minister.
The incident took place at a sensitive time, one day after the election of the new Social Democrat-led government under Zoran Zaev.
The previous government, led by the VMRO-DPMNE party, to which Todorov belongs, is accused of mass wiretapping and corruption.
Macedonia’s new Prime Minister, Zaev, condemned the attack just minutes after formally entering the government building to assume office.
“I am glad the former minister is safe and sound because we are people and we need to help each other,” Zaev said, adding that he still does not know all the details.
The attack on Todorov also comes just days after he announced plans to quit politics and start working as a lawyer. During his political career, Todorov was regarded as one of the closest associates of former Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski.