Putin ally allegedly involved in Montenegro coup plot
Denitsa Koseva, Intellinews, Mar 3 2017
A Bulgarian security expert has claimed that Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, a close ally of Putin, was involved in a coup plot uncovered in Montenegro in 2016. Christo Grozev, an expert on Russia-related security threats at the Sofia-based Risk Management Lab, also claimed that the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, an advisory body to Pres Putin, was involved in planning the coup attempt, RTCG reported on Mar 2. If proven, this would connect Russia directly to the plot, which has destabilised Montenegro’s political life since the Oct 16 general election. On the night of Oct 15, Montenegrin police arrested 20 Serbian paramilitaries suspected of planning to disrupt the election. Many of them agreed to testify in exchange for shorter jail sentences. Montenegrin prosecutors later said that several Russians linked to the security services in Moscow were involved in the plot. Earlier this year, British security officials also alleged that Russia was behind a plot to assassinate Montenegro’s then-PM Djukanovic and help a pro-Russian opposition party take power ahead of the Oct 16 general election, sources told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. RTCG quoted Grozev as saying in the daily Pobjeda newspaper:
Shortly before the October election, Russian special forces, Spetsnaz, arrived in Banja Luka disguised as a Cossack folk band and led personally by Konstantin Malofeev. One of the organisers of the events in Montenegro, from the Serbian side, was also in Banja Luka at this time. I believe that these forces were used for recruitment of teams and for the later events in Montenegro.
An attempt by bne IntelliNews to contact Malofeev via his Tsargrad group for comment was unsuccessful on Mar 3. Malofeev has previously been reported to be active in the Balkans. Last year, he was mentioned as potential buyer of Serbia’s national broadcaster and other media and advertising agencies in Serbia. There was speculation this was aimed at increasing the influence of pro-Russian media in the country, though it is not clear whether the Russian businessman has made any acquisitions in Serbia. His name was also involved in an alleged plan to destabilise Macedonia ahead of the elections last year. Balkanalysis.com reported, quoting German intelligence, that Malofeev was involved in a Russo-Greek plan to mass 100,000 refugees on Greece’s border with Macedonia to destabilise Macedonia and the Balkan region. Grozev, who made the accusation, specialises in analysing threats from Russia as a senior analyst with Risk Management Lab, which is run by Bulgaria’s former PM Kostov. RTCG reported that Russia is reviewing Montenegro’s request for assistance in the investigation of the coup plot. RTCG quoted the prosecution as saying in a statement to RIA Novosti:
Russia’s state prosecution at the moment is reviewing, according to its procedure, a request by the respective authorities in Montenegro to provide legal assistance.
According to Grozev, Malofeev has been involved with Russian politics concerning Montenegro since 2014, when Moscow decided to focus on the Balkans, and he suggested that the Kremlin was behind the coup plot. Grozev claimed:
Everything is being done as a private initiative so that Russia cannot say it has been initiated by the government in case the plan fails. If it succeeds, as in Crimea for example, then they will take full credit and responsibility. We think that the same people who created the Crimean scenario, played a big role in the events in Montenegro.
Grozev also alleged that the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies had prepared the scenario for the coup at the beginning of 2016, saying:
We have information that in September last year, when Sasa Sindjelic was in Moscow, people from the Russian institute asked him for information on who in Serbia could be potential extremists. They were given several names, including those of members of the Montenegrin pro-Russian parties and a leader of the Serbian Chetnik group.
The institute is a Kremlin-funded think-tank established by Putin. It prepares policy papers for Putin, the government, the State Duma and the Security Council. According to the institute’s website, it deals with issues of national security, analyses and predicts trends in political and socio-economic processes at global and regional levels and is engaged with strategic stability and resolving crises that threaten global and regional stability. Montenegrin media have reported that the special prosecution has gathered evidence and witness testimonies claiming that two leaders of the opposition pro-Russian Democratic Front, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, agreed to stage protests in front of the parliament building on the eve of the Oct 16 general election and to provoke clashes with the aim of entering the building and declaring victory in the election. Mandic and Knezevic were stripped of their parliamentary immunity in February but prosecutors have so far decided not to arrest them.
McCain and Montenegro: The Anatomy of a Conspiracy Theory
Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, Mar 20 2017
Just in case you thought the conspiracy theory that Russia secretly controls the Pindosi government is exclusively an affliction affecting the Demagog party, Walnuts McCain’s recent performance on the floor of the Senate should disabuse you of this optimistic notion. Responding to Rand Paul’s blocking of a vote in favor of the accession of Montenegro to NATO, the failed former GOP presidential candidate let it all hang out:
I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number, perhaps 98 at least of his colleagues would come to the floor and object and walk away. The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.
What’s “remarkable” is that this kind of lunacy is tolerated in the Senate. I recall that Elizabeth Warren was rebuked and silenced by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell because she read a letter from Coretta Scott King that called into question the motives of Jeff Sessions, then a Senator and a candidate for the office of Attorney General. Surely McCain’s outburst was an even more egregious violation of the rules than Warren’s, and yet McCain was allowed to proceed uninterrupted. Perhaps this is an example of “warmonger’s privilege.” In a later interview, Rand Paul sought to explain McCain’s behavior as an indication of the Senator from Arizona’s advanced age: perhaps, he suggested, McCain is “past his prime,” and, by the way, “this is a good argument for term limits.” In the current political atmosphere, where Putin has been elevated to the status of a virtually omnipotent force who has the power to change election results and infiltrate the highest reaches of Western governments, it’s no crazier than anything else we’re hearing out of Faschingstein these days. Be that as it may, ordinary Pindosis may have a few questions about this bizarre incident, starting with: What the heck is Montenegro?
A tiny republic in the middle of the Balkans, Montenegro has a popultion equal to that of Albuquerque and a military force of around 2,000 soldiers and sailors. Up until the break-up of Yugoslavia, it was never a unified independent country, except for a few years early in the twentieth century. Today, it is even less unified, beset as it is with rival factions that routinely battle it out in the streets. Its former President and alternately PM is Milo Djukanovic, a former top Communist official who came to power in 1997 in an election marred by allegations of fraud and violent protests, and is known as “Mr 10%” on account of his reputation for corruption. Although officially retired, he is still the real nexus of power in the country. I believe this is his third retirement. Formerly a bastion of Serbian nationalism, Montenegro has undergone demographic changes since the end of the Yugoslav era, with a large incursion of Albanians, who have initiated a campaign to create a “Greater Albania” by merging the southern portion of the country with Albania proper. Aside from that, there is the question of whether Montenegro will join NATO and the EU, a project dear to the heart of Djukanovic but opposed by the former Serbian majority, which still remembers how the country was bombed by NATO during the Kosovo war.
The recent elections, billed as a referendum on NATO membership, yielded ambiguous results for Djukanovic’s party: the hope was that Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), the successor to the old Communist Party, would win an outright majority, thus enabling the pro-NATO forces to push NATO membership through parliament without having to resort to a referendum. The DPS ended up winning 41% of the vote, not enough to form a government, although an alliance with smaller parties, not all of them pro-NATO, gave Djukanovic a parliamentary majority. The opposition parties are now pushing for a popular vote on entering NATO, and recent polls indicate that voters are split almost exactly down the middle on the issue. That doesn’t deter Djukanovic, who, with the help of the Western media, has managed to replicate the anti-Russian hysteria we are seeing infect our own politics. According to Djukanovic, a Russian plot to attack the parliament, kill members of the ruling party, and take over the country was narrowly averted when a number of plotters were arrested. The NYT describes these sinister plotters as follows:
Mr Djukanovic and his officials initially provided no evidence to support their allegation of a foiled coup attempt on Oct 16, the day of national elections. They said only that 20 Serbs, some of whom turned out to be elderly and in ill health, had been detained just hours before they were to launch the alleged putsch. Nonetheless, Mr Djukanovic insisted it ‘is more than obvious’ that unnamed ‘Russian structures’ were working with pro-Moscow politicians to derail the country’s efforts to join NATO.
After months of searching, the alleged weapons cache that was to be used in the coup attempt has yet to turn up. But who needs weapons when you’re part of the vast Putinite Conspiracy? Oh, those Russians, stealing elections from Michigan to Montenegro! Is there anything they can’t do? The alleged leader of the plot has been granted a plea deal, and is now spinning a tale of intrigue so murky that light cannot penetrate its depths. One version has it that Russian special forces disguised as a Cossack folk band arrived on the scene to recruit those plotting to bump off Djukanovic. Those are some very special forces indeed. Oddly, the alleged plotters have all been released, including the supposed ringleader. Meanwhile, leaders of the anti-NATO opposition are being arrested for ties to the plot. This what McCain was talking about when he claimed that Montenegro is “under assault from the Russians.” It’s the Montenegrin version of the same line of baloney he’s been pushing here at home: that the Russians “stole” the 2016 presidential election and are “subverting” Pindosi democracy.
Rand Paul was right to block approval of Montenegro’s accession to NATO. That country is the perfect backdrop for an international incident that would drag us into a conflict with Russia. In accusing Rand Paul of working for Putin, McCain is limning the tactics of Djukanovic, who is busy framing up and arresting his political opponents on similarly phony charges. The alleged Russian agent Mike Flynn, forced to resign as National Security Advisor because of his nonexistent ties to Moscow, reportedly recommended that the Trump administration approve Montenegro’s bid to join NATO. I guess he didn’t get his directive from Putin in a timely manner. On the other hand, the Montenegrin opposition is petitioning Steve Bannon to urge Trump to veto it. Montenegro’s accession to NATO would plant yet another tripwire that could easily lead directly to a collision with Russia. At the very least it would cause substantial internal turmoil in the country, perhaps ending in an all-out civil war such as happened in Ukraine. Trump was right when he said during the campaign that NATO is obsolete. It is also dangerous, in that it pledges us to go to war in defense of member nations. With Turkey, a NATO member, moving rapidly into Syria and now face-to-face with Russian and Syrian soldiers, and with British troops now entering Estonia, where a make-believe Russian threat is supposedly being thwarted, our membership in NATO could very well drag us into a conflict on two fronts. How is this putting Pindostan first?