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Hungary confirms asylum request from fugitive former Macedonian PM

media Macedonian then-Premier Nikola Gruevski (R) has previously indicated he was close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L). The men are pictured here in Skopje in 2013 AFP/File

Hungary confirmed Wednesday that it has received a request for political asylum from fugitive former Macedonia prime minister Nikola Gruevski, a day after he said on Facebook that he had fled a prison sentence for abuse of power.

Budapest said it will consider the application from Gruevski, who dominated Macedonia for nearly a decade until 2016, in a move likely to enrage Skopje, which has issued an international warrant for the former premier's arrest after he failed to show up for his two-year jail term.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's office confirmed that Gruevski "has submitted an asylum request" and had declared that he intends to "submit a request for refugee status in Hungary".

"Given that he was prime minister of his country for 10 years, for security reasons the Hungarian authorities have allowed Mr. Gruevski to have his asylum request submitted and heard at the headquarters of the Immigration and Asylum Office in Budapest," it added.

Budapest declined to reveal details of Gruevski's whereabouts, or how the Macedonian -- who has been stripped of his passport -- entered Hungary.

The confirmation came a day after Gruevski said he had fled to the Hungarian capital.

"I am now in Budapest, where I have requested political asylum from the Hungarian authorities," the 48-year-old wrote on his official Facebook page.

Skopje has called on Budapest not to grant his request.

On Wednesday Macedonian premier Zoran Zaev urged Hungary to "respect international practise, international law" and not to provide "a refuge shelter for criminals".

In the past Gruevski, an opponent of Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO, has indicated he was close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Both have accused US liberal billionaire George Soros of stoking illegal immigration -- claims that Soros denies.

In 2017, Orban publicly supported Gruevski during his campaign for municipal elections in which the Macedonian's right-wing VMRO-DPMNE party lost to Zaev's ruling Social Democrats.

The application will test Budapest's willingness to apply harsh asylum rules and anti-migrant measures like border fences and detention camps for asylum seekers that have drawn fierce criticism from Orban's opponents at home and abroad including Brussels.

Budapest insisted that it wanted to keep on good terms with Skopje.

"We in no way wish to intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign countries, and we consider the assessment of the former Macedonian prime minister's asylum request to be solely a legal issue," said the government statement.

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