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Montenegrin Court Confirms Charges Against Alleged Coup Plotters

The Interpol images of (from left to right) Predrag Bogicevic, Nemanja Ristic, Vladimir Popov, and Eduard Shirokov -- suspects in the assassination attempt and coup in Montenegro in 2016

A court in Montenegro has confirmed the indictment of 14 people, including two Russians and two pro-Russia opposition leaders, over their alleged roles in what authorities say was a plot to overthrow the government last year.

The High Court in Podgorica announced on June 8 that it confirmed the indictment, which includes charges of "preparing a conspiracy against the constitutional order and the security of Montenegro" and an "attempted terrorist act."

Trial proceedings are due to start within two months, the court said.

The defendants include lawmakers Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic of the Democratic Front, nine Serbian citizens, two Russian citizens, and one other Montenegrin.

Officials allege that Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to take over parliament during October 2016 parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership in order to halt Montenegro's bid to join NATO.

Prosecutors said the two Russians, identified as Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, were based in Serbia and were allowed by authorities there to return to Russia. They remain at large.

Montenegro's special prosecutor has said that "Russian state bodies" were involved in the alleged coup, something Russia denies.

Montenegro became NATO's 29th member at a ceremony in Washington on June 5, marking a historic turn toward the West amid protests from traditional ally Russia and the country's pro-Russian political opposition.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa