A leading conservative newspaper in Britain on Sunday said it had obtained exclusive information from the top levels of the UK government that Russian intelligence was behind a plot to kill the then Montenegrin Prime Minister on election day and derail the country’s accession to NATO as its 29th member.
Whitehall [UK government] sources told the Sunday Telegraph in a front-page article that it was “inconceivable” that the so-called Russian nationalists directing the alleged coup attempt did not have backing and direction from high up in the Kremlin.
The same Whitehall sources also told the newspaper that Britain was convinced that Russia had poured “millions of dollars” into the opposition Democratic front to run what it called “a slick campaign” against NATO membership in the run-up to the October 16 election.
The Montenegrin opposition has continued to claim that the pro-Western government, then led by Milo Djukanovic, faked the coup plot to discredit both the Democratic Front and the anti-NATO campaign.
The authorities arrested 20 suspects in the immediate aftermath of the alleged coup but Podgorica has declined to implicate the Kremlin directly, instead blaming two Russian nationals who are now wanted by Interpol.
Russia remains strenuously opposed to NATO expansion, a position Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated on Saturday at a security summit in Munich where he called the alliance a cold-war relic whose recent expansion had caused international tensions.
Opinion in Montenegro remains evenly divided over NATO and the opposition has demanded a referendum on membership. The government maintains that parliament, in which the ruling parties have a majority, has the right to take the decision on its own.