Russia was behind a plot to kill Montenegro’s pro-Western prime minister to stop the country from joining Nato, senior British government officials have claimed.
Senior government sources told The Sunday Telegraph the alleged plot to kill Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic had been constructed in such a way that it could be blamed on rogue Russian nationalists if uncovered.
In November, a special prosecutor in the former Yugoslav republic said a group of “Russian nationalists” had planned to assassinate Mr Djukanovic to get an opposition party into power.
Moscow has denied any involvement in the plot, and Montenegrin opposition parties have said it was fabricated and accuse Mr Djukanovic of using the security services to extend his quarter century of dominance.
However, the newspaper reports the alleged plot was foiled hours before it was due to take place on 16 October, on the eve of the nation joining Nato.
Moscow has repeatedly warned Montenegro to ditch its plans to join Nato. If Montenegro joined the Western military alliance, Russia would lose strategic access to the Adriatic Sea and Serbia would remain its only ally in the region.
“You are talking about a plot to disrupt or take over a government in some way. You can’t imagine that there wasn’t some kind of approval process,” the newspaper quoted one unnamed source as saying.
Two Russian intelligence officers reportedly spent months recruiting and equipping a small force of Serbian nationalists to attack the parliament building.
The alleged plot would have seen the attackers, disguised as police, open fire on a crowd of opposition party supporters as the election results were announced.
In the resulting confusion, other conspirators planned to force their way into the parliament building and kill the prime minister.
Such a massacre could have tipped the country into civil war and derailed any hopes it had of joining Nato and, later, the EU.