A Montenegrin court has handed jail sentences to 14 people, including opposition politicians, over an alleged Russia-backed coup plot. The judge said the plot was aimed at stopping Montenegro from joining NATO.

A court in Montenegro on Thursday sentenced opposition politicians to five years in jail over an alleged attempted plot to overthrow the government.

Despite a 19-month trial, details of the plan remain murky. The opposition has decried the prosecution and trial as a “witch hunt” aimed at preventing it from coming to power.

What we know about the case

  • Fourteen people stood accused of planning a violent coup with Russian help in 2016.
  • The defendants included two pro-Russian opposition leaders, Andrija Mancic and Milan Knezevic.
  • Two Russians, identified as Eduard Shshmakov and Vladimir Popov, were convicted in absentia.
  • Prosecutors said the plotters were trying to prevent Montenegro from joining the NATO military alliance.
  • Moscow denied any involvement.
  • The politicians are expected to appeal the ruling

Russian help?

Russia strongly opposed Montenegro’s accession to NATO in 2017, fearing, among other things, a loss of strategic access to the Adriatic Sea. However, the opposition says there is no evidence that Moscow was behind any plot to overthrow the government and that the trial was politically motivated.

What was the alleged coup plan? The verdict says those involved aimed to take over parliament on October 16, 2016, which was election day, to kill then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and set up an administration that was pro-Russia and anti-NATO.

Tags: ; ; ;