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Serbia Detains Suspects In Plot To Sway Montenegro's Election

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced the detaining of suspects in a plot to sway the outcome of Montenegro's election.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced the detaining of suspects in a plot to sway the outcome of Montenegro's election.

Serbia has detained suspects in a plot to sway the outcome of Montenegro's election, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced on October 24.

Vucic said his country's security services had found "undeniable and material" evidence of a plot involving a retired police general and others, whom he did not name but who he said planned to attack Montenegrin state institutions and officials.

Vucic's stunning announcement follows Montenegro's arrest of 20 Serbian citizens on election day, October 16. Vucic said his government had apprehended new suspects in the case.

The election, in which veteran Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's party came out ahead but without a parliamentary majority, was advertised as an opportunity for voters to endorse his pro-NATO and pro-European Union stance instead of pursuing closer relationships with traditional allies like Serbia and Russia.

Vucic said security services found evidence of a plot, including 125,000 euros in cash and stashed uniforms, although he did not detail the nature of the planned attacks. Supportive evidence was also given by detained suspects under questioning, he said.

"We have undeniable evidence that certain individuals, and they are certainly not those arrested down there, have been following movements of the Montenegrin prime minister and informing other people about them," Vucic said, adding that other groups might yet be found.

"We could not find evidence of involvement by Serbian or Montenegrin politicians," he added.

Serbia and Montenegro, its small neighbor on the Adriatic coast, are both former Yugoslav republics whose governments are seeking closer ties with the EU. Montenegro has also sought to join NATO against the wishes of some opposition politicians and the Kremlin.

Before the election, Djukanovic told Reuters that Russia was financing the opposition in order to derail Montenegro's imminent NATO membership. Opposition parties, many also pro-NATO, deny this and also rejected the outcome of what they called a "rigged" vote.

Cyberattacks shut down media and party websites on much of election day, and Montenegrin authorities suspended instant messaging services.

While election observers found that the outcome broadly reflected "the will of the people," Djukanovic, who has dominated Montenegro's political life for a quarter for a century, has been accused of authoritarian tendencies.

His Democratic Party of Socialists, which won 36 seats in the 81-member parliament, is seeking allies to build a majority coalition, but it remains unclear if other parties will support him.

With reporting by Reuters and Radio Slobodna
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