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NATO Chief Says Alliance Helping Western Balkans Resist Russian Influence

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

NATO is closely following reports about growing foreign interference in the Western Balkans and is helping countries to resist it, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said on February 2.

Stoltenberg, speaking in Bosnia-Herzegovina's capital, Sarajevo, said that NATO has seen reports about "increased Russian influence" in the region, in particular about "Russian intervention in the political process in Montenegro" in 2016.

"We are following that very closely, we work with partners, including Montenegro, to help them strengthen their intelligence capacities and defense institutions," Stoltenberg said.

Montenegro is expected to join NATO this year, a move strongly opposed by Moscow.

Montenegrin authorities say Russian and Serb nationalists last year were behind an alleged coup attempt there that included plans to assassinate the pro-Western prime minister Milo Djukanovic, because of his government's bid to join NATO.

The Russian government denied involvement in such a plot.

Stoltenberg said the best way to counter external influences was to ensure that "institutions in different Western Balkan countries are strong, modernized, and reformed."

The Western Balkans include Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, and Kosovo.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

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