Russian intelligence officers, backed by the Kremlin, planned to kill PM Milo Ðjukanović – claims
Intelligence officers, supported by the Kremlin, plotted the attack on the day of the eastern European nation’s elections in a bid to destroy the pro-Western leader’s plans for Montenegro to join Nato, senior Whitehall sources told the Telegraph.
The coup plot was halted just hours before it was due to happen on October 16 – the day before Montenegro was to become the 29th member of Nato.
Rumours of the coup have been around since October, but until now they have always been linked to Russian nationalists not the Kremlin.
British government sources said the planned plot would have caused serious bloodshed and is one of the most obvious examples of Russia’s growing aggression towards the West.
Interpol is still searching for two Russians believed to be intelligence officers who planned the plot.
In the months before the failed attempt Moscow repeatedly warned Montenegro should drop its plans to join Nato in 2017.
Neighbouring Serbia is also said to be involved in the coup, with a small army of Serbian nationalists recruited by the two Russians to attack Montenegro’s parliament building and kill then Prime Minister Milo Ðjukanović by posing as local police.
Russia’s government has strongly denied the allegations, while the Montenegrin special prosecutor blamed the halted coup on “Russian nationalists”.
However, both American and British intelligence agencies were asked to help the Montenegrin authorities solve the conspiracy and have managed to collect evidence of Russian complicity at the highest level, the Telegraph understands.
Montenegro’s defence minister, Predrag Bosković, was more clear on the issue.
He said there is “not any doubt” the plot was organised and financed by Russian intelligence officers and Montenegrin radicals.
Milivoje Katnic, Montenegro’s special prosecutor told the Telegraph the Russians were planning to take part in a Democratic Front protest outside the parliament building in Podgorica, the capital, as election results were announced.
They would have then forced their way inside and colleagues dressed as police would have opened fire on the crowd.
He said: “Had it been executed, such a scenario would have had an unforeseeable consequence.”
He added he had “obtained evidence that the plan was not only to deprive liberty, but also to deprive of life the then Prime Minister.”
Telegraph sources said the plot appeared to have been planned so it could be denied and blamed on rogue Russian agents and nationalists.
However, they said the evidence revealed there was no possibility of it not having high-level backing.
A source, said: “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.”
One of the alleged plotters, Nemanja Ristic, was photographed recently with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov during a visit to Serbia.
Mr Lavrov today called for a “post-West world order” as he accused Nato of being a Cold War institution and accused its “expansion” of sparking unprecedented tensions in Europe as both sides expand military deployments and drills.
His comments came after British defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon warned of a “step change” in 2016 in the way the Kremlin meddled with Western countries during 2016.
In a recent speech, he said Russia is “clearly testing Nato and the West” by “seeking to expand its sphere of influence, destabilise countries, and weaken the alliance”.