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news 21 Apr 17

Russia, Montenegro Trade Barbs Over NATO Membership

Moscow and Podgorica have exchanged sharp words over Kremlin claims that Montenegro was encouraging a 'surge in anti-Russian hysteria'.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Maria Zakharova. Photo: mid.ru.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday dismissed the Kremlin’s claims that Russian citizens could be endangered in Montenegro due to worsening relations between the two countries.

The ministry said a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman's talk of growing "anti-Russian hysteria” in Montenegro were totally unfounded.

“There are no reports implying that any Russian businessman or tourist has experienced unpleasantness in Montenegro, or that there is any kind of hostility toward Russian people in our country. Thousands of the Russian citizens residing in our country ... can testify to that fact,” the Montenegrin ministry said on Thursday.

“This is, therefore, mere manipulation and a continuation of a media war that Moscow is waging against Montenegro aimed at obstructing its accession to NATO,” the ministry said.

Podgorica reacted came after the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Thursday said a dramatic decline in bilateral relations, provoked by Podgorica, the accession of Montenegro to NATO and the Montenegrin decision to join EU sanctions against Russia had provided the backdrop to an upsurge in anti-Russia hysteria.

"The general attitude to Russian business and Russians is becoming increasingly negative, and the ruling coalition is fostering a hostile attitude in Montenegrin society towards Russia and Russian citizens. In this situation, we cannot rule out the possibility of provocations, arrests of Russians on questionable charges and their extradition to other countries, primarily the United States," she said.

"We recommend that Russians take these circumstances into account," Maria Zakharova added.

The Montenegrin government said that all decisions on the future of the country, including NATO membership, would be made by the government and parliament of Montenegro, whether Moscow liked it or not.

“Instead of making false accusations against the Montenegrin authorities, we call on Russia once again to resolve all doubts and misunderstandings in direct and open talks that official Moscow is persistently avoiding," the Montenegrin government said.

As NATO membership for Montenegro looms - the government hopes to complete the process this spring - Podgorica has distanced itself from its historic ally, Russia.

Moscow has said that Podgorica's NATO ambitions run counter to hundreds of years of "fraternal relations" between the two Slavic Orthodox Christian nations.

NATO accession also remains a controversial issue inside Montenegro. An opinion poll conducted in December 2016 showed only 39.5 per cent of Montenegrins favour membership.


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