Monday, February 27, 2017

Implausible Deniability

"[Conspirators dressed in police uniforms were to have opened fire within the crowd] so that citizens would think that the official police are shooting at them."
"Had it been executed, such a scenario would have had an unforeseeable consequence."
"We don’t have any evidence that the state of Russia is involved in any sense . . . but we have evidence that two nationalists from Russia were organizers."
"[Plotters, including Montenegrins, Serbians and Russians, had planned for 500 people to enter Montenegro on election night to] cause violence ... and hire professional sharpshooters to kill the prime minister. The plan was to stop Montenegro on its Euro-Atlantic path, especially to prevent it from entering NATO."
Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor, Montenegro
In this Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 file photo, Montenegrin police officers escort people suspected of planning armed attacks after the parliamentary vote in Podgorica, Montenegro
Darko Vojinovic / Associated Press   In this Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 file photo, Montenegrin police officers escort people suspected of planning armed attacks after the parliamentary vote in Podgorica, Montenegro
Montenegro is in line for acceptance into NATO; it has many sponsors from among the current 28 membership prepared to approve its inclusion into this mutual protection society. The country also aspires to join the European Union. As do many of the Soviet Union's former close allies and satellites, much to Russia's chagrin. Understandable in good part, since East Europe is Russia's geographic bailiwick and the incursion of a presence it views as hostile to its interests such as NATO, is galling to them.

The Kremlin's interference in the business of other nations in its near abroad, where it feels entitled to be involved in manipulating their allegiances has become legendary. Moscow's fingers can be seen in cyber-interference even in the far-abroad, having made its indelible impression on the recently-concluded U.S. presidential race. President Putin's obvious annoyance with Europe and with NATO in involving themselves in Russia's plans to endear itself to Ukraine and the Baltic States has backfired with crippling economic sanctions at a time when Russia's finances have been doubly compromised with low oil and gas returns.

And now, Montenegro seems prepared to indict a Russian intelligence officer whom it sees as the mastermind behind a coup plot meant to apprehend the small nation from joining NATO. An officer with Russia's KGB replacement, the GRU military intelligence service, has now been accused of operating a network of Serbian and Russian nationalists and paramilitaries plotting to assassinate Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.

Darko Vojinovic / Associated Press
Darko Vojinovic / Associated Press   Milo Djukanovic in a file photo

These revelations result not only from the investigative intelligence of Montenegro itself, but with the added assistance of both British and American intelligence agencies, involved in getting to the bottom of the conspiracy. A second Russian GRU operative has been identified; Vladimir Popov is also being sought for apprehension by Montenegrin authorities. In all, Montenegro plans to indict 24 people involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Mr. Djukanovic and create chaos in the country.

The plot, evidently, was coordinated in Serbia by Sismakov and Popov. Warrants for both men have been issued by Interpol, but since the Russian constitution does not permit its citizens to be extradited, the Montenegrins may have their work cut out for them, particularly since the Kremlin has denied any culpability in the alleged plot. But it cannot be happy with the imminence of Montenegro joining NATO, since that event would shut it out of a military port on the Adriatic.

According to prosecutor Katnic, "Russian state bodies" have been implicated in the assassination plot. On the cusp of the parliamentary elections 20 people were arrested before their plan to mingle with opposition protesters at the parliament building in Podgorica was foiled. Had the plan succeeded it would have been because the plotters were meant to force their way into the parliament while dressed in police uniforms, they would have fired on the crowd, and shot Mr. Djukanovic dead.

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