Russia blamed for coup plot
Montenegro is becoming a focus for new tensions. Source: Iha
Russian nationalists planned a coup attempt in Montenegro that aimed to assassinate the pro-EU premier because of his bid to join Nato, according to the former Yugoslav republic’s chief special prosecutor.
Milivoje Katnic said “nationalists from Russia” formed a criminal group that planned to break into the parliament on election day, kill Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and establish a pro-Russian coalition.
Opposition parties in Montenegro said the plot was fabricated and argued that Djukanovic was using the security services to help extend his 25-year dominance over Montenegro.
Around 20 mainly Serb citizens, including a former commander of Serbia’s special police forces, were arrested on the Serbo-Montenegrin border during the October 16 general election. Fourteen are still in custody. Some fought with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow has denied involvement but has backed the “patriotic” parties that oppose Nato membership.
Before the vote, Djukanovic said Moscow was financing the opposition in order to derail Montenegro’s Nato membership. Opposition parties, many of which are also pro-Nato, deny the claims.
“We don’t have any evidence that the state of Russia is involved in any sense…but we have evidence that two nationalists from Russia were organisers,” Katnic told a press conference.
Belgrade reportedly deported an unspecified number of Russian operatives who were monitoring Djukanovic’s movements from Serbia.
“Special prosecution of Serbia had those persons under its supervision…and prevented them from realising their plan,” Katnic added. “Those persons are not on the territory of Serbia any more. I don’t know where they are now, in Russia or somewhere else.”
He said the plan was for 500 operatives to enter Montenegro during the election to “cause violence…and hire professional sharpshooters to kill the prime minister”.
“State authorities revealed that a criminal group had been formed on the territories of Montenegro, Serbia and Russia with a task to commit an act of terrorism,” he told the media.
The investigation was carried out in cooperation with the Serbian authorities, Katnic said. Serbia also arrested people suspected of having links to the alleged conspiracy.
Djukanovic’s party was the largest party after the election but failed to win a parliamentary majority. He had presented the election as a chance for Montenegro to endorse his policy of joining Nato and the EU, moving away from traditional allies in Serbia and Russia.