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Lose an election, try a coup

Daniel Serwer

October 27, 2016



Montenegro, invited to join NATO less than a year ago, completed its accession negotiations in May. Eleven countries have already ratified the accession agreement. But opponents are not giving up: they planned and a coup immediately after Montenegro’s October 16 election, which pro-NATO forces won.

Here is what a Montenegrin colleague wrote about the evolving situation:

Two days ago [Serbian Prime Minister] Vucic held a press conference confirming that there was a serious threat to [Montenegrin Prime Minister] Djukanovic and a professional plan to destabilize his country through riots, targeted shootings, etc. The plan was extremely elaborate. It involved the participation of several groups, which would even wear police uniforms. One group was tasked to neutralize special anti-riot police forces, two others to stage a police shooting on the crowd and subsequent seizure of the Parliament building. They were given sophisticated weapons and GPS maps that are only available to major powers around the world. In other words, this was not a layman’s work.

Now after one group has been arrested, and the others have been disassembled, Vucic said that there is a strong indication of “foreign” involvement. The sudden visit of the head of the Russian National Security Council to Belgrade is suggestive. Officially he is there to talk about global terrorism. Unofficially he is going to inquire what went wrong with the Montenegrin case. One can only expect that he will put pressure on Belgrade, saying not to get too close to the West.

If Vucic was indeed hinting at Russia, it would be a major move, albeit a dangerous one for his political career. The plan depended on nationalistic and pro-Russian groups in Serbia. They might plan something similar for Serbia as well. [Serbian President] Nikolic was in Russia recently. Sputnik published news that he discussed a potential reunification of Montenegro and Serbia once the opposition wins in Montenegro. He was instructed to explore that option by Russia. It seems that the Russians are ready to invest substantial effort in countering Montenegrin accession to NATO, and asserting their dominance in the Balkans.

Asked for more clarification, he added:

Unfortunately there is still no hard evidence of Russian involvement. These are mainly political assertions base on available information.

The special public prosecutor for organized crime and corruption in Montenegro spoke extensively about the case in an interview for TV Vijesti.

Here is a summary of his statement: the arrested group was from Serbia. It included individuals of various backgrounds, predominantly associated with nationalist circles. The group entered Montenegro a few days before the elections with instructions to deploy to different cities across Montenegro. The commander of the group, former commander of the Serbian Gendarmerie Bratislava Dikic, entered Montenegro and spent two days in Budva before he was arrested in Podgorica. He was arrested on the night before the elections, as he was getting ready to inspect weapons. He and the rest of the group were under surveillance. So were the weapons, which never entered Montenegro.

According to the Special Prosecutor, these were highly sophisticated weapons that were destroyed before entering the country with the prosecutor’s permission. The entry point was supposed to be on the border with Albania. The arrested group was one of four or five that was expected to act. Other groups were not apprehended, but the prosecutor’s office is adamant that all of them will be arrested. One group was tasked to neutralize special police anti-riot forces, stationed close to Podgorica. The arrested group, together with two more, were supposed to act in front of the Parliament building, where they would first stage a shooting of (fake) police forces into the crowd and then seize the Parliament building. According to some reports the group was expected to receive 50 high-end rifles and 3500 bullets. The prosecutor identified Dikic as coordinator of the entire operation. His arrest crippled the entire plan.

Vucic’s press conference revealed that Serbian authorities seized a large number of police uniforms that were supposed to be worn during the riots, a large amount of cash (125,000 euros), and highly sophisticated GPS footage only available to advanced armed forces. A few days before the elections, the Demoratski Front had announced a “celebration” of their electoral victory in front of the Parliament, and in case of their electoral loss adamant resistance and contestation of the results.

Some conspiracy theorists initially spoke about a Djukanovic plot, even claiming he staged the whole thing. However, recent statements by Vucic only confirmed what the prosecutor’s office in Montenegro initially said. The Serbian group was closely following Djukanovic’s every step, aiming to “arrest” him if he declared victory at the elections.

Vucic also confirmed what Montenegrin authorities previously stated, that this was a plan strongly supported by outside players, with strong meddling of intelligence services from abroad. Although there is only speculation that this might be pointing toward Russian secret services, Serbian authorities have expelled a number of Russian citizens from Serbia following the failed plot in Montenegro. This may be the reason why the Russian national security council chief abruptly came to Serbia.

Officially he came to discuss terrorism with his Serbian colleagues and offer strong collaboration to them. However news about the expulsion of Russian citizens came only few hours after Vucic said that the whole situation regarding Montenegro had strong foreign involvement. He also said that he is aware that the decision to speak publicly about this might politically jeopardize him, but he did not want to keep silent and minimize the risk of what almost happened in Montenegro. He even used the example of failed assassination attempt on Djindjic, which was ridiculed in the media only few days before the assassination happened.

Prime Minister Djukanovic has announced his withdrawal from office, in favor of his deputy prime minister, Dusko Marovic.



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