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news 06 Sep 17

Montenegro ‘Coup’ Trial to Hear ‘Russian Plot’ Evidence

The prosecution is to begin setting out evidence against two Russian intelligence agents who are being tried in absentia in Montenegro for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
 
 The Democratic Front's official Slaven Radunovic presented on Tuesday what he claimed to be an evidence that the weapons seized by the prosecution on October 16 are owned by the Montenegrin police. Photo: DF.

The trial in the coup plot case is to resume on Wednesday with the Montenegrin public eager to hear the evidence of the prosecution, which is seeking to prove that the two Russian intelligence agents were involved in a covert scheme to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

It is the first time that evidence that the Kremlin allegedly planned to overthrow the pro-Western government in Montenegro will be heard in open court.

Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, both officers in Moscow’s GRU military intelligence service, are accused of being behind a network of Serbian and Montenegrin citizens who planned to assassinate then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic last October.

Twelve others accused include the leaders of the main opposition Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, who are charged with "criminal association" with a view to "committing terrorist acts" and undermining the constitutional order.

They face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Bratislav Dikic, the former commander of an elite Serbian police unit, the Gendarmerie, is also among the indictees. He was arrested in Montenegro in October.

The prosecution has said it believes that “Russian state bodies” were involved in the alleged coup attempt.

The trial is to resume a week after the Britain’s Telegraph newspaper published what it said were surveillance photos from spy agencies allegedly showing Shishmakov and Popov plotting the coup last year.

The photos allegedly show two of them meeting Serbian nationalist Sasa Sindjelic in a Belgrade park in late October 2016, just days after the Montenegro elections.

Sindjelic, who has been granted protected witness status by a Montenegrin court, was allegedly hired to orchestrate the coup during the elections on October 16. 

However, the opposition in Montenegro and some anti-government media outlets continue to claim that the coup was staged by the authorities to ensure Djukanovic won another election.

On Tuesday, the Democratic Front presented what it claimed to be an evidence that the weapons seized by the prosecution on October 16 are owned by the Montenegrin police.

In November, the prosecution showed off the seized arms, which were supposed to prove the terror attack was planned in Montenegro. 

“We all know that this weapon was taken from the Interior Ministry... to set up the Front,” Front official Slaven Radunovic told reporters on Tuesday, showing a document that allegedly proved his claims.

Asked whether the Front can prove the authenticity of the documents it presented, Radunovic said that the paper was part of the court files in the coup case “which were set aside and which someone hoped would not be found”.

The prosecution and police did not comment on the Front’s claims by the time of publication.

Russia has denied involvement in the alleged plot, although Moscow supports the Democratic Front and other opposition groups which oppose NATO membership and champion closer ties to the Kremlin.

Russia strongly objected to Montenegro joining NATO, and threatened unspecified retaliation after the country became a member of the Western military alliance in June. 

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