Macedonia begins to take steps on solving its name dispute with Greece in an effort to open the doors to its bids to join NATO and the EU.
The Macedonian Parliament on Monday voted to adopt a proposal for a constitutional amendment changing the country's name to "North Macedonia" under an earlier agreement with Greece.
A two-thirds majority, 80 deputies of the 120-seat parliament, voted in favour of the proposal.
In the second stage, the amendment made to the Constitution will be voted on. At least 61 of 120 deputies will need to vote in favour so that the process reaches its third and final phase.
Another two-thirds majority will be needed in the last stage for the amendments to be finalised.
The name issue has kept Macedonia from joining the EU and NATO since its independence in 1991.
Macedonia's international recognition was finalised in April 1993, when the country was unanimously adopted as a member of the UN General Assembly, but was admitted as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to pressure by Greece.
Despite the dispute between Athens and Skopje, many countries recognise the country as Macedonia.
In June, the Macedonian and Greek governments signed the Prespa Agreement which requires Macedonia to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece to drop its objection to Macedonia joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and becoming a member of the European Union.
Russia claims vote rigged
Russia, which opposes the name change, said on Monday that the vote in the Macedonian Parliament was rigged through a combination of blackmail, threats and vote-buying.
"We view what happened as an open violation of all norms, both from a legal and moral point of view. Such dirty manipulations cannot be regarded as an expression of parliamentarians' will," the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
It said that eight votes needed to reach the two-thirds majority had been secured "through blackmail, and threatening and bribing opposition deputies."