Montenegro accuses Russia of directing coup plot
MONTENEGRO: Russian military intelligence officers spent months overseeing a coup plot to overthrow Montenegro’s government and kill its prime minister, prosecutors in the Balkan nation allege.
Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov of the GRU spy agency gave their plot ringleader large sums for weapons and equipment and he was also given a lie detector test to check he was not a Western intelligence agent, it is claimed.
A lengthy indictment against the plotters alleges the network was passed sophisticated encrypted phones set up from Moscow, while at least one money transfer to the conspirators was made from the same street as GRU headquarters.
According to details of the Montenegrin government’s case, prosecutors also say they have gathered surveillance evidence of the Russian officers meeting the Serbian radicals they hired to carry out the operation.
A total of 14 suspects, including two pro-Russian opposition leaders, face trial in the Montenegrin capital for terrorism offences over the alleged plot.
The two Russians, who remain at large, are being tried in their absence.
According to details of the indictment, the plot is alleged to have begun in early 2016 when an unidentified Russian intelligence colonel met members of the opposition ‘‘to discuss a planned destabilisation operation during the Montenegro elections’’.
Montenegrin police arrested a group of Serbian nationals on the eve of a general election on October 16 last year. They were accused of planning to storm the parliament, some disguised as police officers, and target Djukanovic, while also firing on a crowd of protesters to cause chaos.
British and United States officials believe the conspiracy had high-level backing from Russia.
The biggest case in Montenegrin legal history has divided public opinion, with many suspecting the plot was a fake invented by then prime minister, pro-Western Milo Djukanovic, a suggestion he denies.
The Kremlin has strongly denied any involvement, while the opposition leaders on trial, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic of the Democratic Front party, deny wrongdoing and say the coup was concocted to discredit them. – Telegraph Group