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Montenegrin PM Resigns, Suggests Russia Behind Alleged Coup Plot

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic suggested Russia was behind an alleged coup attempt on election day.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic suggested Russia was behind an alleged coup attempt on election day.

Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has resigned, hours after suggesting that Russia was involved in an alleged coup attempt on the country's election day and accusing the opposition of collaborating with the Kremlin.

Djukanovic said on October 25 that there was "a strong connection of a foreign factor" in the October 16 vote, which was marked by the arrest of 20 people suspected of planning armed attacks against the prime minister and his supporters after parliamentary election results were announced.

Russia has strongly opposed Djukanovic's bid to join NATO and the European Union while opposition leaders made frequent visits to Moscow ahead of the vote.

The Montenegro prosecutor's office has alleged that the detained group planned to attack people in front of parliament after the vote results were proclaimed, then storm the building and arrest Djukanovic.

Opposition parties cried foul, however, charging that Djukanovic -- whose pro-Western party won the election but did not secure a parliamentary majority -- staged the alleged coup attempt to try to extend his quarter century of dominance over Montenegrin politics.

But, not long after implicating Russia in the plot, Djukanovic announced he was stepping down and would not continue as prime minister. His Democratic Party of Socialists said it would nominate his deputy Dusko Markovic to replace him.

It is not clear if there is any connection between Djukanovic's claims of a coup attempt and his sudden departure.

Among those arrested in the purported coup plot was a former commander of Serbia's special police forces.

Djukanovic said authorities would investigate the extent of the involvement in the alleged coup attempt both by Russia and Serbia. Montenegro split from Serbia after an independence vote in 2006.

"There should be no panic... We will find out the facts," Djukanovic told reporters.

Russia has launched a propaganda campaign to keep both Montenegro and Serbia, which is also seeking EU membership, within its sphere of influence. Both countries are traditional Christian Orthodox allies.

After first denying that Serbia was involved in Montenegro's election, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on October 24 that an unspecified number of people were arrested in Serbia who provided evidence of a plot in Montenegro.

Vucic said the people arrested were not connected to politicians in either country, but had ties to a third country and criminal groups. He did not name the country.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, The Guardian and dpa
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