BELGRADE – Most recent Montenegrin parliamentary elections were held in a very heated atmosphere, preceded by opposition led demonstrations held some time prior. The real point of dissent and divergence was revealed on the election night.
That October evening, Milo Đukanović, the prime minister of Montenegro, announced that plot to overthrow current government had been stopped. He named pro-Russian conspirators opposed to his aim of joining NATO as responsible for violence, who have even planned to assassinate the country’s leaders. Montenegrin police on the night between 15 and 16 October arrested 20 Serbian and Montenegrin nationals on suspicion of committing criminal offenses of “creating a criminal organization” in connection with terrorism, reported regional news organizations. Six were released the same week, later some of them entered into a plea bargain, and were given suspended sentences. The weapons for what Montenegro officials called a terrorist attack plan have never been presented but Milivoje Katnić, Special State Prosecutor of Montenegro, insisted they had been destroyed in Kosovo, Guardian reported. European officials expressed concerns regarding the coup, and Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, welcomed the open investigation both in Montenegro and in Serbia related to the attempted interference and a coup. Serbian authorities cooperated with Montenegro, and have arrested two of their nationals in accordance with international arrest warrant.
This still not fully clarified event led to further destabilization of political process, because it added new reason for opposition to boycott Parliamentary sessions. They accused Montenegrin Special State Prosecutor’s office (SSP) of spreading panic on the election evening and for continuous slander after that event, and PM Đukanović of faking the coup plot to discredit the opposition. For two MP’s for opposition party Demokratski front (Democratic Front), Andrija Mandić’s and Milan Knežević’s parliamentary immunity was lifted mid-February so that they could face charges for involvement with the coup attempt. In a decision immediately after the parliamentary vote for the lifting of immunity, Montenegro’s Supreme State Prosecutor Ivica Stanković issued a binding order that they remain at liberty. “Stanković decided not to remand Mandić and Knežević with the best intentions, because Montenegro was on the brink of civil war,” Katnić explained and regional portal Balkan Insight reported.
Moscow in its official capacity has denied all of the accusation from the Montenegro’s side. Russian State Prosecutor’s Office considered the possibility to assist Montenegro in the investigation attempted state coup, reported the RIA Novosti as urgent news on 2 March. SSP of Montenegro sent a request for international legal assistance, which involves the hearing of Russian citizens Eduard Sismakov and Vladimir Popov, suspected terrorist (and organizers) in the presence of Montenegrin special prosecutor, confirmed on 3 March the Montenegrin Minister of Justice Zoran Pažin. Eduard Sismakov is alleged member of the Russian military intelligence service, former deputy Russian military attaché in Poland according to CNN, which was deported to Russia for espionage in 2014. Montenegro has so far from the Russian authorities received only confirmation that two of the main suspects are indeed Russian citizens, while to their other requests for mutual legal assistance, sent to them by SPO’s four months ago, the Russian authorities have not responded.
This affair once again split the Montenegro’s political discourse along the pro-NATO / anti-NATO stance, because their current government sees this event as the last attempt to stop the imminent Montenegro NATO accession process (on which EWB wrote beforehand), while the opposite side sees this as a way to enter NATO without the referendum. With the situation still ongoing, one can only state that this destabilization has disrupted Montenegro’s relations in the Balkans and with Russia, and that detante can be achieved with cooperation of all involved parties, including the EU and NATO.
This article has been produced with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy. The content of this article and the opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the portal European Western Balkans and in no way reflect the views and opinions of the Balkan Trust for Democracy nor the German Marshall Fund of the United States.