Montenegro jails ‘Russian coup plot’ leaders

Democratic Front (DF) leader Milan Knezevic arriving in court, 6 Sep 17

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AFP

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The scene as Knezevic arrived in court in September 2017

A court in Montenegro has handed five-year jail terms to two pro-Russian opposition politicians for trying to topple the government in October 2016.

The court also found 12 others guilty including two Russians – alleged GRU secret agents – tried in absentia.

Prosecutors said the plotters had Kremlin support to assassinate the then-prime minister, Milo Djukanovic and block Nato accession.

Russia has called the coup inquiry absurd.

Montenegro’s opposition has consistently rejected the charges, alleging what it called a “false-flag” operation to keep Mr Djukanovic in power. He is now the president.

Besides the two opposition leaders, the defendants were another Montenegrin, nine Serbs and the two Russians.

The Russians, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, got the heaviest jail terms – 12 and 15 years.

The opposition leaders jailed on Thursday are Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic – MPs in the Democratic Front Alliance.

Russia has condemned Montenegro’s June 2017 accession to Nato.

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. At that time there was Russian support for the Yugoslav government.