Montenegro on Friday said it was expelling an unnamed Russian diplomat, ‘acting on the assessment of the relevant security bodies’.

Montenegro Expels Russian Diplomat, Citing ‘Security Agency Advice’

Montenegrin Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic (left). Photo: Government of Montenegro

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry on Friday declared an unnamed Russian diplomat persona non grata, noting that the decision had been made on the national security agency’s suggestion. It said the Russian embassy in Montenegro had received a formal note with a 72-hour deadline for him to leave the country.

“The reason for making this decision is the assessment of the relevant security bodies in Montenegro on the activities of the Russian diplomat, which were in conflict with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the ministry said.

The expulsion comes after a report in daily Pobjeda on February 26 that two Russian citizens, Victor Antipin and Alexander Perishov, met a senior official from the ruling pro-Serbian Democratic Front, Strahinja Bulajic, currently serving as interim speaker, in Danilovgrad, on February 20.

The paper said Antipin and Perishov had both been on the Montenegrin National Security Agency’s radar for least two years.

Citing an unnamed Security Agency officer, Pobjeda wrote that the two Russians were both members of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, SVR, and that they talked with Bulajic about the political situation in the country.

But a Democratic Front MP, Slaven Radunovic, on Friday denied that Bulajic’s meeting with the Russian diplomats lay behind the latest expulsion. “The authorities should explain reasons for their decision,” Radunovic said, about the expulsion.

On February 28, the opposition Democratic Party of Socialists accused Bulajic of serving Russian political interests.

But Bulajic has defended the meeting, claiming he did not know the Russians were security service agents. “Meetings with foreign diplomats are my obligation as an MP and as interim parliament speaker,” he said.

He claimed he was being targeted because he had “refused to schedule a parliament session and enable the betrayal of our parliamentary victory from August 2020”, referencing his refusal as speaker to schedule a vote on electing a new minority government to replace the one that took office after winning the 2020 elections.

Bulajic, who was elected interim speaker after Aleksa Becic was sacked on February 7, on February 25 refused to schedule a session to elect a minority government under Dritan Abazovic. According to parliamentary rules, the speaker is in sole charge of timetabling sessions.

Despite strong historical ties, relations between Russia and Montenegro have cooled, particularly since 2014, when Montenegro – targeting membership of NATO, joined European Union-backed sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU and the United States over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and involvement in fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Ties frayed further in 2016 when Montenegro accused Russia of sponsoring a failed coup attempt, allegedly designed to stop Montenegro from joining NATO.

In May 2019, Montenegro’s Higher Court sentenced 13 people, including 2 leaders of the Democratic Front, 2 Russian intelligence officers and 8 Serbs to custodial sentences of up to 15 years for staging an attempted coup.

But on February 5, Appeal Court annulled the first instance verdict and asked the Higher Court to repeat the trial, which former opposition leaders claim was politically motivated.

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