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29th Mar 2020

'Russian nationalists' linked to Montenegro plot

  • Dukanovic (r) was to have been killed by a hired sniper (Photo: nato.int)

Prosecutors in Montenegro have said that “Russian nationalists” were behind an attempted coup against the country’s pro-Nato leader last month.

Milivoje Katnic, the country’s chief special prosecutor, told press on Sunday (6 November): “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”.

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"The organisers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Dukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force," he added.

“The plan was to stop Montenegro on its Euro-Atlantic path, especially to prevent it from entering Nato,” he said.

He said the plan was for some 500 people to stir up violence on the night of parliamentary elections on 16 October and to “hire professional sharpshooters to kill the prime minister”.

He said the plot was partly prepared in Serbia and that Serbian authorities had helped to quash it.

He also said that the two Russian nationalists in question were at large and had possibly returned to Russia.

"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," Katnic said.

“Special prosecution of Serbia had those persons [the two organisers] under its supervision … and prevented them from realising their plan,” he said.

“Those persons are not on the territory of Serbia any more. I don’t know where they are now, in Russia or somewhere else”.

Montenegro last month already arrested 20 people in connection with the allegations, one of whom, Bratislav Dikic, a Serb nationalist, remains in prison with 13 others.

The Serbian prime minister Aleksandr Vucic has said that the Serbian members of the plot had nothing to do with state structures.

He said they had coordinated their activities with “foreigners” and used “very modern equipment” to track Dukanovic’s movements ahead of the alleged assassination attempt.

Serbian press reported that Vucic might have allowed the organisers to slip back to Russia following a visit to Belgrade in late October by a Russian security chief, Nikolai Patrushev, but Vucic declined to comment on those reports.

Montenegro split from Serbia in a referendum in 2006 and aims to join Nato next spring following ratification of the decision by Nato members.

Serbia, an old Russian ally, aims to join the EU, but does not plan to join Nato and has not aligned its foreign policy with the West in an effort to maintain close ties with Russia also.

The differences in approach were seen last week when Montenegro hosted a small Nato drill, while Serbia, at the same time, played host to exercises by Belarusian and Russian paratroopers.

Dukanovic himself recently stepped down from office, but said his decision was not related to the alleged plot.

Some anti-government groups, who accuse his government of corruption, have said the plot was a fiction designed to protect his image.

Speaking to EUobserver at the Nato summit in Warsaw in July, Dukanovic warned that Russia had created “strongholds” in the Western Balkans.

“They [the Russians] have their strongholds, the role of which is to oppose Nato and the EU, not only in our country, but in all the countries of the region”, he said.

“These minorities have very frequent contacts with Moscow. It is clear Russia is very supportive and provides the logistics for certain political parties, NGOs, and media outlets which are trying to hamper Montenegro’s path to Euro-Atlantic integration”, he said.

“Do I see this as a peril? Yes, I do”, he said.

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