The Supreme Court of Montenegro has convicted two Russian citizens of organising an attempted a coup in the small Balkan country, sentencing them to 12 and 15 years in prison.
Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov “knew that their actions were illegal and deliberately participated in the crime with the intention of intimidating the citizens of Montenegro, attacking the life and health of another person, as well as endangering the foundations of the Montenegrin social structure to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO,” said Judge Suzana Mugosa.
Shishmakov and Popov were sentenced to 15 and 12 years, respectively, as the main initiators and organizers of the attempted coup d’état in Montenegro on October 16, 2016.
Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, the leaders of the pro-Russian opposition party Democratic Front (DF), received sentences of five years’ imprisonment each, while a retired Serbian police officer was sentenced to eight-years.
According to prosecutors, the conspirators had planned to recruit a small group of Serbian nationalists, who were to disguise themselves as Montenegrin police and assassinate then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and open fire on crowds at the national parliament.
The apparent aim of the coup attempt was to put an end to Montenegro’s NATO accession talks by toppling the pro-Western government and replacing it with the pro-Russian opposition.
However, just hours before the plan was due to be carried out, Montenegrin police, operating from a tip-off by one of the alleged plotters, arrested the suspects.
The Montenegrin opposition argue that the coup attempt was fabricated by the government to discredit them. One of the accused lawmakers, Andrija Mandic, called the charges “a staged political process” designed to scare the electorate into voting to keep the government in power.
“Without this alleged coup, the regime would certainly be in the opposition today …”, the goal was “that Djukanovic can then, on the wave of an anti-Russian hysteria, attack the Democratic Front,” Mandic said at the end of the trial.
The Kremlin has strenuously denied any connection to the alleged putsch, describing the accusations as absurd