Russian authorities were behind a plot to kill Montenegro’s prime minister and overthrow the government in a bid to stop the country joining NATO, a report says.
The plot was directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow, according to Whitehall sources quoted by The Sunday Telegraph.
Montenegrin authorities have blamed “Russian nationalists” but have stopped short of alleging the involvement of Moscow – which itself has denied being part of any plot.
But British and US intelligence agencies have gathered evidence of high-level Russian complicity, the paper claims.
The Balkan country’s chief special prosecutor, Milivoje Katnic, said “nationalists from Russia” organised a criminal group that planned to break into the Montenegro parliament on election day – 16 October last year.
The plan was to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and bring a pro-Russian coalition to power, Mr Katnic alleged.
But the plot was apparently foiled hours before it was scheduled to take place.
Mr Djukanovic stood down following the reported attempt on his life and was replaced by his deputy Dusko Markovic.
A number of Serbian and Montenegrin citizens were arrested on the day of the vote, while other suspects remain at large.
Montenegro’s defence minister, Predrag Boskovic, told the Telegraph there was “not any doubt” the plot was financed and organised by Russian intelligence officers alongside local radicals.
Sources reportedly said the plot appeared to have been constructed so it was deniable and could be blamed on rogue Russian agents and nationalists.
But evidence showed it was inconceivable it did not have high-level backing, according to the report.
The Foreign Office said: “The Montenegrin investigation had pointed to the involvement of two Russian nationals.
“Montenegro must itself deliver a competent, transparent judicial process and trial of the coup suspects.”
Montenegro has been invited to join NATO despite strong opposition from its traditional Slavic ally Russia.
With Montenegro joining, Russia would lose strategic access to the Adriatic Sea and Serbia would remain its only ally in the region.