09 May 2019 - Montenegro's High Court on Thursday sentenced 13 people, including two Russian secret service operatives, up to 15 years in prison after they were convicted of plotting to overthrow the country’s government and prevent it from joining NATO.
Following the verdict, the Montenegrin government published an official statement, in which they explained that “the judiciary has shown adherence to the constitutional position of autonomy and resistance to every kind of pressure and external influence”.
“Montenegro, as a NATO member, shows that it is steadfast on the path of integration and protection of European values and standards,” the government commented in a pair of posts on Twitter.
Two alleged Russian military intelligence officers who were accused of organizing the overthrow of Montenegro's government coup were convicted and sentenced in absentia. Chief Judge Suzana Mugoša said the two Russians, identified as Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, were convicted of “attempted terrorism” and “creating a criminal organization.”
Eduard Shishmakov was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison for creating a criminal organization and eight years in prison for attempted terrorism, for a total of 15 years in prison as a partially concurrent sentence. Vladimir Popov was sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison on each of the charges. Set up to be served as partially concurrent sentences; the length of Popov’s total sentence is to be 12 years.
Chief Judge Suzana Mugoša said that the Russians provided at least 200,000 EUR for the purchase of weapons. She said that Shishmakov and Popov tried to recruit “as many people as possible to come to the protest” and try to “change the electoral will” and “prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.”
Two leaders of Montenegro's opposition Democratic Front, Andrija Mandić and Milan Knežević, were sentenced to five years each. Mandić and Knežević have vowed to fight any attempt to imprison them because, as they said during a recent press conference, “they do not accept the arrest warrant”. They also added that “difficulties and consequences will be borne by those who come after them;" all the while warning of chaos if they are jailed after the verdict was announced.
"In this politically motivated and rigged trial, the insolence, superficiality, and obedience of the Montenegrin judiciary system was exposed,” it said in a statement by the DF leaders.
Montenegro's High Court found that the group had plotted to occupy the country's parliament during the 2016 parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership.
"Each member of the criminal organization had a predetermined task and role, and in the operation of a criminal organization there was a willingness to apply violence and intimidation. All members were accountable and very well aware of their deeds, wanting them to be executed and knowing that their offense was unlawful," Mugoša explained.