The Grayzone: British Agent Charles Garrett posing as UK Ambassador led Macedonian Coup


Charles Garrett, an apparent British intel agent, teamed up with a local prosecutor to wrongfully indict Macedonian public figures and topple the country’s government. Everywhere Garrett goes in the region, coups seem to follow.

Western media demonstrated little interest when the anti-Western VMRO-DPMNE party achieved a landslide victory in Macedonia’s presidential and parliamentary elections this May 8. However, the seismic development could reverse a foreign-orchestrated color revolution sparked almost a decade ago, which put the government in Skopje on a path guided by the EU and NATO. Getting there required rampant corruption and criminality, and a locally despised change of the country’s name.

British Ambassador Charles Garrett completes diplomatic mission to  Kyrgyzstan ahead of term - AKIpress News Agency

British meddling figured centrally in that regime change operation, with an apparent MI6 operative named Charles Garrett stirring up trouble on the ground while coordinating with opposition actors. Garrett enjoyed an evidently intimate bond with a crooked, high-profile local prosecutor who used illegally-obtained and heavily tainted wiretap evidence to wrongfully indict and blackmail scores of Macedonian public figures. Garrett appears to have been in a position to improperly profit from this relationship. 

As The Grayzone has documented, London operates a dedicated program known as “Global Britain” in the West Balkans. Leaked documents related to the effort reveal it is concerned with insidiously influencing the composition of local governments and legal and regulatory environments to advance British interests, while filling regional institutions, including the military-intelligence apparatus, with handpicked assets. According to one leaked file, MI6 does not tolerate regional opposition to its agenda, and readily deploys active measures to neutralize local resistance:

“In contexts where elite incentives are not aligned with [Britain’s] objectives/values… an approach that seeks to hold elite politicians to account might be needed… We can build relationships and alliances with those who share our objectives and values for reform… It is critical that the media have the capacity and freedom to hold political actors to account.”

What transpired in Macedonia over the past decade offers a stark example of what happens to governments in the Balkans who do not share Britain’s professed values, and how they are “held to account.” So too does a 2020 coup in Kyrgyzstan, where Garrett set up shop next after leaving Skopje. Central Asia is now in the crosshairs of London’s endless quest for regime change.

‘Bombs’ unseat elected government for NATO

NATO’s efforts to expand in the former Yugoslavia became turbocharged after Russia’s March 2014 reunification with Crimea. The Grayzone documented how alliance membership was imposed on Montenegro in 2016 despite near-universal public opposition. Achieving this feat required support for a corrupt, savage pro-Western dictator in power for almost two decades, and an elaborate connivance whereby anti-NATO opposition actors were jailed on spurious charges of colluding with Russian intelligence to overthrow the government, based on bogus CIA and MI6-supplied evidence.

Similar subterfuge played out in Skopje, which signed a “Membership Action Plan” with NATO in 1999. While slightly more supportive of NATO membership than Montenegrins, the local population near-unanimously opposed changing the country’s name, which Greece, the EU and US demanded as a prerequisite for joining. The VMRO government, led by hardline nationalist Nikola Gruevski, pledged Macedonia would always be called Macedonia. So a Western-orchestrated coup was put into motion.

In February 2015, opposition party SDSM’s leader Zoran Zaev began regularly dropping what he and the media branded “bombs,” but which were, in fact, damaging wiretaps of private conversations between prominent Macedonian figures. The tapes seemingly implicated Gruevski and his ministers in serious crimes, including murder. Zaev claimed whistleblowers passed him the illegally-captured recordings. The premier countered that the releases were supplied by foreign intelligence services, with the objective of forcing an early election.

Years later, independent investigations revealed SDSM deceptively edited and spliced these leaked recordings to distort their contents and falsely incriminate government officials. For example, they edited one “bomb” to make it sound as though top VMRO officials conspired to cover up the 2011 murder of a young Macedonian in Skopje by a senior police officer. The unexpurgated tape indicated VRMO leadership was in fact shocked by the killing, and wanted the culprit to be severely punished.

Upon release, Zaev’s heavily manipulated “bombs” sparked widespread outcry in Macedonia, prompting hundreds of thousands of citizens to take to the streets against the VMRO. Openly called the “colourful revolution” by participating citizens and NGOs,  the EU and US duly stepped in and brokered the Przino Agreement, under which Gruevski resigned, and new elections were held.

SDSM scraped into office via a fragile coalition, then set about laying the foundations of Macedonia’s name change in explicit service of NATO membership, with tens of millions of dollars in assistance from intelligence cutout USAID, and anti-communist billionaire George Soros. Parliamentarians were blackmailed, often by using the illegal wiretap intercepts, and bribed into passing unconstitutional and highly controversial reforms. This enabled the rebranding of Skopje as “North Macedonia” despite a near-total lack of public support, or even the President’s sign-off. Western forces also imposed sham referendum, which was boycotted by most citizens.

At last, North Macedonia was formally inducted into NATO in March 2020. And the Alliance has no intention of stopping there. Officials have since repeatedly made clear they consider the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be all but inevitable. This is despite 98% of Bosnian Serbs opposing membership, due to NATO’s central role in the criminal destruction of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. There are covert British efforts to promote NATO in Serbia too, where over 80% of the population opposes joining.

Veteran British agent arrives in Macedonia, wreaks political havoc

In August 2013, Charles Garrett received an appointment as London’s ambassador to Macedonia. His express brief was to help the country “achieve its goals of joining NATO and the EU.” Knowledgeable local sources have informed The Grayzone that he was instrumental in the “colourful revolution,” distributing cash to NGOs and activists involved in the unrest from his diplomatic pouch, while attempting to get government supporters on board. 

Garrett’s bio contains all the trappings of a lifetime MI6 officer. His lengthy career in London’s diplomatic service includes spells in CyprusHong Kong, Switzerland and Taiwan, all key nuclei of intelligence gathering and cloak-and-dagger action for Britain’s foreign spying agency. He was also posted to the Balkans in the latter half of the 1990s, when the region became a veritable MI6 playground

Under the Przino Agreement, a Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) was created to investigate officials over serious crimes supposedly revealed by the illegal intercepts. A previously unknown prosecutor from a small Macedonian border town, Katica Janeva, was selected to run the Office. While the SPO was supposed to pursue legal action against SDSM activists – including Zaev, for releasing the intercepts – the prosecutions never materialized. Meanwhile, any and all Western officials visiting Macedonia made sure to visit SPO headquarters and get snapped with Janeva. Garrett was, of course, among them.

Initially, Western journalists treated Janeva to multiple fawning profiles. The British press was particularly smitten, with the Financial Times referring to her as Macedonia’s “Beyonce.” The BBC dubbed the Special Prosecutor and her two primary assistants “Charlie’s Angels,” claiming the trio were “the scourge of Macedonia’s political elite and heroines of the street protests now rocking the tiny Balkan nation.” A lengthy USAID-funded “documentary” featured her staff mocking their targets by phone while discussing whom to jail next.

That broadcast has since been removed from the web, and virtually no trace of its existence can be found online today. This may be because in June 2020, Janeva was jailed for seven years for corruption. Her crime-fighting crusade was from the very beginning an obscene, partisan fraud. Along the way, the Special Prosecutor secretly enriched herself through a variety of unscrupulous, criminal means. The SPO’s true objective was destabilizing the VMRO government, and discrediting its supporters by association.

Janeva’s targets were often indicted on ludicrous charges. For example, at one stage Prime Minister Gruevski was accused of “abuse of office” for commissioning the construction of two “Chinese highways”. Prosecutors charged he had improperly benefitted from the deal – not financially, but because he would “receive a popularity boost” if the highways were completed on schedule. Elsewhere, a pro-VMRO female journalist was charged with tax fraud for writing off laundry as a business expense, and resultantly subjected to much misogynistic mockery in SDSM-affiliated media.

More gravely, the owner of an independent news site committed suicide after being pressured to turn state witness by the SPO, following early morning police raids targeting him and his family. Cases brought against the owners of government-supporting TV stations Sitel and Nova shifted their editorial line in favor of SDSM, and led to the latter being closed outright. In its place, an eccentric Macedonian media personality named Bojan Jovanovski, nicknamed Boki 13, launched the rabidly pro-SDSM 1TV.

Publicly, Boki 13 used his station to relentlessly promote the SDSM-led government and the SPO’s work, with Janeva a frequent guest on its assorted “factual” and entertainment programs. In private, he would extort wealthy businesspeople indicted by Janeva, promising to make their legal troubles go away in return for lavish advertising buys on 1TV, or sizable donations to his “charity,” International Association. None other than Charles Garrett sat on its board.

Coups follow Garrett wherever he goes 

In 2019, by the time these facts became public knowledge, and Janeva and Boki 13 were in prison, Garrett had been safely extracted from Skopje, having been appointed British ambassador to Kyrgyzstan. Almost immediately, a revolution erupted in Bishkek. Mass demonstrations, ignited by reports of vote rigging in the October 2020 parliamentary election, culminated with the military storming President Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s compound and removing him – physically – from office.

In February 2022, a Kyrgyzstan government-affiliated newspaper openly accused Garrett of operating a “fifth column” in Bishkek. It alleged that in the leadup to the 2020 vote, he along with US State Department representatives met with local journalists and bloggers, offering them enormous sums to identify electoral violations – such as vote rigging – and document official pressure on media outlets and civil society groups. Garrett purportedly promised them top-of-the-range broadcasting equipment, to increase their audience reach. Not long after publication, he returned to London.

Garrett has kept a low profile ever since, and now occupies a cushy role overseeing the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Nonetheless, in September 2023, he submitted written evidence to a British parliamentary committee investigating London’s “engagement in Central Asia.” He advocated an array of tactics to exploit “disruption caused by Moscow’s renewed invasion of Ukraine” in 0rder to undermine the region’s historic, economic and political ties with Russia and China.

When Foreign Secretary David Cameron conducted a heavily publicized tour of Central Asia in May 2024, he followed Garrett’s proposals to the letter. The ambassador’s legacy visibly endures in Macedonia today too. In March 2016, colorful revolution protesters attempted to burn down the President’s office, after 56 individuals indicted by the SPO were pardoned. The premises were transformed into the headquarters of UK Aid, a now-defunct British government agency intimately implicated in the neoliberal pillaging of Ukraine.

This role included running covert communications campaigns on Kiev’s behalf to promote the destruction of workers’ rights locally. It is likely the organization was engaged in similar skullduggery in Skopje, after Garrett rode into town. VMRO’s return to government at last offers Macedonian citizens an opportunity to halt the operations of all US and British intelligence fronts and cutouts operating on their soil, and reclaim foreign-conquered territory. //Kit Klarenberg