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Albanian Opposition Party Denies Russia Link

U.S. magazine alleges a former Trump aide indirectly accepted Russian money to lobby for Albanian conservative party. 9 March 2018

Albania’s leading opposition party, the Democratic Party of Albania (DPA), has responded furiously to allegations by the publication Mother Jones that the DPA enlisted suspicious Russian support in the run-up to the country’s parliamentary elections last year.


In a press release, the DPA launched a counter-attack, stating that its rival, the ruling Socialist Party, had paid Mother Jones to “forge facts,” Mother Jones says. The San Francisco-based magazine is known for its progressive views and investigative reporting.


In an investigation published on Tuesday, Mother Jones traced the steps of Nick Muzin, a former Trump campaign aide, hired by an obscure Scotland-based company named Biniatta Trade to lobby for Albania’s DPA in Washington.


According to Mother Jones, Muzin was paid $500,000 to, among other things, set up meetings for DPA leader Lulzim Basha with several U.S. congressmen. He also arranged for Basha to be interviewed by the American right-wing news site Breitbart.


Basha, who campaigned for the 2017 elections as “Albania’s Trump,” complete with the slogan “Make Albania Great Again,” also managed to get his photo taken with the U.S. president.


Lulzim Basha with Trump 350Basha’s photo op with Trump, as seen on the Albania opposition leader’s Facebook page. Image via Balkanweb Com/YouTube


Biniatta Trade was set up by two Belize-registered companies, which were in turn apparently controlled by Russian nationals – hence Mother Jones’s presumption that the scheme is another example of Russia’s meddling in foreign elections, in this case to support a party opposing the pro-EU, pro-American Albanian Socialists.


The DPA maintains that it “has not had nor does it have any direct or indirect link with Russian individuals or companies,” as cited by The Associated Press.


The Russian embassy in Albania’s capital Tirana responded on Wednesday, calling the allegations “absurd” and “deeply regrettable.” The embassy stressed that “unlike a number of Western states, Russia firmly adheres to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, including Albania.”



  • Muzin’s boosterism apparently did not help Basha and his DPA win the 2017 elections. The Socialist Party, led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, retained power, winning an absolute majority in the parliament.


  • Rama is an outspoken supporter of Albania joining the EU. In February 2017 he warned of increasing Russian influence in the Balkans. Basha maintains a much more critical stance toward the EU and has flirted with nationalistic populism, according to Mother Jones.


  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in an interview last week with a Bulgarian journal, said Russia does not “see any problems regarding Balkan states trying to become members of the European Union. Provided that they decide for themselves, without outside pressure, whether the preconditions necessary for joining the EU are in their national interests. And, of course, the Euro-integration aspirations of the Balkan states should not be an obstacle to their interaction with our country.”


  • On 22 February, EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said accession negotiations with Albania (and Macedonia) would begin soon.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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