Prosecutor says he ‘never blamed official Moscow’ over Montenegro coup plot

Montenegro’s Chief Special Prosecutor has clarified earlier accusations that “official” Russia was behind an alleged coup attempt in the small Balkan state in 2016. Instead, he’s claiming two GRU agents were involved.

Milivoje Katnic’s accusation had been labelled as “groundless” and “absurd” by Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday, who said the justice official had spent the last two years “searching for ‘irrefutable evidence’” of Russian involvement, to no avail.

“Katnic has decided to join the competition for the most absurd accusation ever put forward against Russia,” the Russian statement said.

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A banner in front of Serbian parliament building in central Belgrade, Serbia. © Marko Djurica

Now, Katnic has rushed to clarify his position, saying he never accused “official” Russia or President Vladimir Putin of being behind the plot.

“I have never blamed official Moscow. The Russian state is [the poet] Mayakovsky, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Bolshoi Theater and 150 million Russians,” Katnic told the Dan newspaper on Tuesday.

“I blamed certain security personnel, agents of the GRU and certain Cossacks. If this is official Moscow, then we blamed it,” he added.

On the same day as tense parliamentary elections in October 2016, Montenegrin police detained a group of 20 Serbian and Montenegrin citizens over an alleged plot in the capital Podgorica to overthrow the government.

The following month, Katnic claimed that a group of residents of Serbia, Montenegro and Russia had tried to carry out a terrorist attack.

READ MORE: 20 Serbs arrested in Montenegro over planning armed attacks on election day – police

He has also accused two Russian citizens, Eduard Shirokov and Vladimir Popov, of providing financing for the coup attempt and a plot to kill Montenegrin President Milo Dukanovic.

Both men are currently being tried in absentia along with 12 other Montenegrins indicted in 2017.

READ MORE: Offended by Trump’s comment, Montenegro claims ‘permanent friendship’ with US

The recent exchange of words between Moscow and Katnic stem from the trial last week after the defense team presented the Russian Foreign Ministry’s response about the alleged stay in Moscow by one of the prosecutor’s key witnesses.

Katnic responded by saying that this document was created by the GRU “with an aim to poison members of the trial.”

He also “demanded that it be taken for a chemical examination in an apparent attempt to find traces of the notorious Novichok agent,” the Russian statement said.

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