Podgorica (Reuters) - A former Serbian police commander denied involvement in an alleged Russia-backed plot to kill Montenegro’s prime minister and overthrow the government in 2016 as the authorities opened deliberations on the indictment of suspected conspirators.
Montenegro earlier said it had evidence that Russian state agencies and local pro-Serb and pro-Russian parties were involved in a plot at the time of an election in October 2016.
The aim of the alleged plot was to halt Montenegro’s NATO accession, assassinate former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and bring an opposition figure to power, authorities in Podgorica said. The Kremlin dismissed that as absurd.
On election day last October, Montenegrin authorities arrested 20 people, including Bratislav Dikic, a former commander of an elite Serbian police unit, in connection with the alleged plot. A total of fourteen people had been charged.
They later also issued international arrest warrants against two Russian nationals as masterminds of the conspiracy, including an intelligence officer who had previously worked at the Russian embassy in Poland.
At the hearing in Podgorica, Dikic denied his involvement in the alleged plot.
“I am a victim ...I did not prepare, nor attempted to commit or committed to what i have been charged with,” said Dikic, who remains in pre-trial detention.
In the indictment, the prosecutor also said that Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, politicians of the opposition Democratic Front, an anti-NATO alliance “have spent time together” and repeatedly traveled to Moscow.
“There are no rational reasons to explain the number of trips to the location (Moscow) except that their aim was to make arrangements about undertaking the criminal plan,” the indictment said.
The court session on Wednesday ended without a decision on whether it will indict the group. Under the law the decision could take weeks due to the complexity of the case.
Montenegro’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists narrowly won elections last year and on April 28 parliament ratified the membership agreement with NATO, taking the former Yugoslav republic a step closer to becoming the 29th member of the alliance.
Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Angus MacSwan