Montenegro charges 14 over alleged coup plot

Montenegrin police officers escort a man to the special court in Podgorica on October 16, 2016

A special prosecutor in Montenegro has charged 14 people, including two Russians, with plotting to overthrow the government last October.

The Russians, identified as Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, are at large. They are suspected of being state intelligence agents.

Russia has called the allegations absurd. Montenegro is close to joining NATO – a move criticized by Russia.

Two pro-Russian opposition leaders and nine Serbs are among the 14 indicted.

Those leaders are Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic – MPs in the Democratic Front Alliance. Mr Mandic called the charges politically motivated and said they were aimed at weakening the opposition. The 14th person on the list of those charged is a Montenegrin.

The alleged plot dates back to a series of arrests hours before Montenegro’s parliamentary elections in October 2016. At the time, Serb paramilitaries and Russian nationalists were blamed.

NATO membership remains highly controversial in the small Balkan country, which became independent in 2006.

Serbia and Montenegro – both bombed by NATO planes in the 1999 Kosovo war – were originally one country after the break-up of Yugoslavia.

 

Zainab Sa’id