The trial of two alleged Russian intelligence operatives and 12 others charged with plotting to topple Montenegro's pro-Western government resumes in Podgorica on September 7.
On the first day of the trial on September 6, a crowd of about 100 protesters gathered outside the courthouse as a key defendant told the court he was not guilty and said the prosecution's case against what it called a "criminal organization" is a "fairytale."
"I have never been a member of a criminal organisation and I never will," said retired Serbian police general Bratislav Dikic."This is a fairytale. I hope that its authors will be held accountable one day."
Dikic is a fierce opponent of NATO's presence in the Balkans. He and other defendants are charged with planning to storm parliament last October in a bid to stop Montenegro's from joining NATO.
The two Russians are said by the prosecutor to be military intelligence operatives for the Kremlin. They have also been charged with terrorism.
The pair, identified as Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, are accused of organizing and coordinating the alleged coup attempt from neighboring Serbia. They remain at large and are being tried in absentia.
State authorities in Montenegro say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during the country's October 2016 parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russia leadership to halt Montenegro's bid to join NATO.
The defendants include opposition Democratic Front lawmakers Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, nine citizens of Serbia, one other Montenegrin, and the two Russians.
Montenegro says "Russian state bodies" were involved in the alleged plot, but Russia denies the claim.
Montenegro became NATO's 29th member on June 5, marking a historic turn toward the transatlantic alliance amid protests from Russia and Montenegro’s political opposition.
Russia has long opposed any further NATO enlargement and has bitterly criticized Podgorica's accession to the alliance.