Coup d’Etat for Dummies: NATO-Backed Farce of a “Russian Coup Attempt” in Montenegro

“Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. They’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War Three” – this loud politically incorrect claim made by American President Donald Trump in retort to the question asked by Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson “Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?” threw western audiences off balance. Back then Montenegro had just entered NATO, and Carlson was reacting to this fact. Trump’s retort was taken by many as an attempt to play into Putin’s hands and an offense against the Alliance’s integrity.

In fact, little Montenegro, the population of which is two and a half times less than, say, the number of Manhattan residents, is a rare subject of the MSM front-page stories. However, in October of 2016 the news from this country did become a front-pager: Montenegro was then, as Trump’s logic suggests, the source of a large-scale international conflict. That autumn the country was shaken by an “attempted coup”, allegedly orchestrated by Russia with the aim of preventing Montenegro’s admission to NATO. And now, in a few days’ time, on May 9th, the court in Montenegro is to determine the criminal case of the “coup d’etat”.

Spoiler: an abortive attempt of a “power grab by pro-Russian opposition” turned out to be a fake, as in the course of two and a half years no solid evidence of the Kremlin involvement or the smallest proof of a forceful take over conspiracy was found. By chance, the writer of these words was in the capital of Montenegro at that “fateful” time, covering the parliamentary election, and the only evidence I was able to find was of massive fraud in favour of the ruling Milo Đukanović’s regime. By the way, Western media loves to label such leaders of post-Soviet space like Putin and Lukashenko as “the last dictators of Europe”, although Đukanović is the one who can be called that, having de-facto ruled the country for almost 28 years now, since 1991, only alternating top positions for appearances’ sake. The opposition leaders who I talked to on the eve of the election showed no signs of having ambitions to grab power. The only dramatic effect on election day was created by police cars aimlessly dashing about the city with blaring sirens, which roused panic in order to lower the attendance and prepare the background for the forthcoming farce of the arrests of “conspirators”. As far as entering NATO is concerned – it should be stated that even NGOs loyal to the Alliance failed to show a level of support among the Montenegrin population higher than 40 per cent in their polls – and independent analyses showed much lower results: only one third of the citizens were in favour of the admission – and that was why Montenegro joined the Alliance without holding a referendum.

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Despite the fictional nature of the coup attempt, the procedural history of the case is quite real, although it looks more and more like a tragicomedy. The nuances and vagaries of the trial became the subject of a short investigative documentary made by the well-known Montenegrin opposition journalist Igor Damjanović “Coup d’état: MADE IN MONTENEGRO”.

Parliamentary elections, which 17 parties and blocs took part in, were held on October 16th 2016 in Montenegro. The winner was the coalition of social-democrats and the parties of ethnic minorities, which claimed 41.42 per cent of the votes. The opposition Democratic Front was the runner-up with 20.27 per cent. Milo Đukanović, although not without a lot of trouble, was apparently able to form coalition government and preserve power.

Nevertheless, the election day will be remembered due to another event. On October 16th 28 men were detained who allegedly conspired to wage a coup d’etat in Montenegro and assassinate Đukanović and his team. The plot was to be carried out in Podgorica in the course of the protest manifestations against electoral fraud in favour of Đukanović and also against his policies. The list of the conspirators looks, to put it mildly, weird: a street market salesman, a historian, a nationalist freak… There were no veterans of Yugoslavia wars, commandos, popular politicians, or top military men – probably, with the exception of the retired Serbian police general Bratislav Dikić, already gravely ill – among the suspects. It is hard to imagine that the formidable Russian special services, which, if we are to believe the MSM, effectively meddle in Western affairs (and not only Western), hired such randomly picked persons for their purposes.

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However, the Prosecutor’s Office had quickly beaten false confessions out of most of the accused. As additional evidence the police showed journalists an array of ingenious goods that Saša Sinđelić was selling in a street market – from T-shirts to slabs from written armoured vests. Saša himself said in court an amusing story about tens of thousands of Euros that were spent on weapons, about Russian agents, and the readiness of the conspirators to seize power. Some of the other “rebels” also gave similar testimonies. 

On May 9th the Montenegrin court is supposed to finally pass a sentence in the conspiracy case, but a lot of circumstances changed in the course of two and a half years. The “conspirators”, beginning with Saša Sinđelić, as soon as they were released from prison, started to withdraw their testimonies, and many of them did it on the air of popular TV shows, and several of the convicts even made statements in Serbian courts claiming that the Montenegrin authorities pressurised them.

In turn, Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnić, who refers to himself as “the fighter for justice” in numerous interviews kept on babbling about the FSB, GRU, and SVR – Russian special services that allegedly stood behind the coup attempt. Simultaneously, he never missed the chance to thank his colleagues from American and British secret services for their assistance and support. However, if his curators from Langley were a little more competent, they would have explained to Katnić that the GRU and SVR traditionally do not cooperate and even are in a kind of controversy, and the FSB is a counterintelligence structure that never operates abroad with the exception of counterterrorism actions.

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The Montenegrin government, the behaviour of which is totally devoid of logic, weird freaks – perpetrators of the coup, the amazing in his lunacy Prosecutor and paranoid Prime-Minister (today already the President) constitute the best cast for a movie or even a miniseries. Nevertheless, right now the pioneer in this field is Igor Damjanović with his short documentary, summarising numerous statements made by the protagonists of this story and floating in the info space. It clarifies perfectly well all the inconsistencies of the case, having brought together all the contradictory testimonies of the “conspirators” and the malapropisms of the Montenegrin Prosecutor General. Damjanović also interviewed influential Montenegrin opposition leaders. As a result, the freak show produced by Đukanović and Katnić is brought to the spotlight in all its glory. The court verdict of May 9 will be the last act of the show. The verdict will be announced by Katnić, who is to perform his hackneyed monotonous number one more time.

Introduction to the documentary by Igor Damjanović “Coup d’état: MADE IN MONTENEGRO” written by Sergey Belous

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