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news 29 May 17

Angry Russia Expels Montenegro Ruling Party MP

Russia has expelled a Montenegrin MP from the ruling party - as Moscow continues to seethe over Montenegro's plans to join NATO, and over Montenegrin accusations that it tried to overthrow the government in Podgorica.

Dusica Tomovic
Miodrag Vukovic. Photo: skupstina.me

Moscow on Sunday took the unsual step of expelling a Montenegrin MP, Miodrag Vukovic, from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, after he was reportedly declared "persona non grata".

The member of the party led by former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic was travelling to Minsk in Belarus as a member of a Montenegrin parliamentary delegation and was only briefly in transit in Russia at Moscow airport.

Vukovic told media on Monday that he was returning to Montenegro on a morning flight from Moscow to Tivat. He said he received the news of his expulsion from Moscow from “Russian security officials" but was not told the grounds.

“This was a purely political act,“ Vukovic told local CDM news portal on Monday.

Vukovic, a parliament deputy since the early 1990s, was one of 46 MPs who incurred Moscow's wrath by voting for Montenegro to join NATO on April 28. Russia strongly opposes NATO's expansion in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Montenegro’s once warm relations with traditional patron Russia have cooled markedly since Podgorica joined Western sanctions against Moscow in 2014 over the crisis in Ukraine and since it announced that it intended to join NATO.

Relations took another nose-dive last October when Montenegro accused unnamed Russians of plotting a coup to overthrow the pro-Western government and assassinate the then Prime Minister, Djukanovic.  

Russia has called the accusations absurd, with media outlets in Moscow ridiculing Podgorica’s claims that its intelligence and security agencies only narrowly stymied the Russian plot.

On April 13, Montenegro's Special Prosecutor for Organised Crime, Milivoje Katnic, filed an indictment against two Russians, nine Serbian citizens and one other Montenegrin, accusing them of having played the key roles in the coup plot.

The two Russians are military intelligence officers named as Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov - both at large.

The plotters intended to "commit an undefined number of terrorist acts" aimed at "permanently destabilising Montenegro and seizing power," the prosecution document said.

Katnic has said that “Russian state bodies” were involved in the alleged coup. Russia has denied all involvement while continuing to support the Democratic Front and other opposition groups which oppose NATO membership and champion closer ties to the Kremlin.

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