A Macedonian party leader who was left beaten and bloodied after hundreds of protesters stormed the country's parliament has claimed the assault was attempted murder.
The Balkan country is battling a severe political crisis, and tensions flared into violence on Thursday night when around 300 demonstrators burst into parliament in an assault that left over a 100 injured.
“What happened last night was a premeditated murder attempt,” Zoran Zaev, leader of the Social Democrats, the largest party in the Macedonian parliament, said on Friday.
“You could see the attackers moving through parliament, co-ordinating with the police, to find us.”
The EU, the UN and Nato all appealed for calm but in a statement Russia blamed the West, saying the crisis was due ”to the gross outside interference in Macedonia's internal affairs”.
Thursday's attack came after the Social Democrats, backed by their allies, elected an ethnic Albanian as the new parliamentary speaker, in move they hope will force Gjorge Ivanov, the country's president, to give them a mandate to form a government.
Macedonia has been without a government since elections in December.
Despite the Social Democrats emerging as victors Mr Ivanov has refused to grant them a mandate because of their pledge to allow a wider use of Albanian as an official language.
The president is supported by the VMRO-DPNME, the former governing party and whose supporters stormed the parliament.
The ethnic dimension to the crisis is becoming an increasing cause for concern. Albanians make up about 25 per cent of Macedonia's population, and the country has struggled to bridge the ethnic divide.
In 2001 Albanians waged a brief insurgency, and with tensions building again, and the possibility they could spill over into neighbouring countries, has led to warnings that conflict could return to the western Balkans.