Serbia has arrested two of its citizens wanted in connection with an alleged coup attempt in Montenegro, including a well-known right-wing agitator who made headlines last month when he appeared in a photograph standing near Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Serbia's Interior Ministry told RFE/RL on January 13 that Nemanja Ristic and Predrag Bogicevic were arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of involvement in the alleged plot to overthrow Montenegro’s government, which Montenegrin authorities say was aimed at thwarting the nation's accession to NATO.
Montenegro has previously urged Serbia to arrest and extradite the two men to face charges of involvement in the purported coup attempt in October.
Ristic was detained in Belgrade, while Bogicevic was detained in Kragujevac, a town south of the Serbian capital.
Later on January 13, Belgrade’s high court released Ristic from custody but banned him from leaving the Serbian capital, court spokeswoman Bojana Stankovic told RFE/RL. The court ordered him to appear every Monday before a special unit of the court, she said.
Bogicevic is to remain in custody, Stankovic said.
Ristic raised eyebrows in December when he appeared in a photograph standing near Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during the official's visit to Belgrade.
His presence so close to Russia's top diplomat raised multiple questions, including how he entered Belgrade's Grave Of Liberators cemetery, which had been tightly secured for Lavrov’s visit there. Soviet soldiers who died while liberating Belgrade during World War II are interred at the cemetery.
Montenegrin authorities in October arrested some 20 people, including two Russians and three Serbian citizens, on suspicion of trying to foment a coup to prevent the election of a government that supported the NATO membership bid.
Prosecutors in Montenegro have identified two Russian citizens as suspected organizers of the alleged coup attempt in Podgorica.
In November, they accused Eduard Shirokov and Vladimir Popov of organizing a criminal group with the aim of assassinating then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic as part of the alleged plot. The whereabouts of the two Russians remain unclear.
Montenegro received an invitation to join NATO in December 2015 and signed an accession protocol with the alliance in May.
Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said in November that the Balkan nation’s integration into NATO could be completed by the end of 2017.
Russia opposes Montenegrin membership in NATO and Serbia remains one of the Kremlin's staunchest allies.
Moscow has said it had no "official involvement" in the alleged coup attempt.
"We, obviously, categorically deny a possibility of official involvement in arranging any illegal actions," Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin's spokesman, told reporters in November.
Montenegro's pro-Russian opposition parties have called the alleged coup plot a fabrication aimed at frightening voters on the eve of the election into backing the ruling party.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, AP, and Reuters