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Thousands in Montenegro rally against President Djukanovic

Published: March 3, 2019
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Source: Reuters

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Thousands protested in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica on Saturday, the fourth such rally in as many weeks, demanding that President Milo Djukanovic and his government resign over alleged corruption, cronyism and abuse of office.

Throngs of people, rallied by civic activists, bloggers and journalists who say they are not affiliated with political parties, marched through the center of the city chanting “Milo thief”. Opposition politicians have distanced themselves from the protests.

Weekly political protests also continued in Serbia, Montenegro’s larger neighbor and fellow ex-Yugoslav republic.

Marija Backovic, a teacher from Podgorica, said she was protesting for a better Montenegro. “We are not the danger for this country ... those that are destroying it for 30 years are the real danger,” she told the crowd on Saturday.

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Prosecutors in Montenegro have called for the arrest of a former CIA officer, accusing him of involvement in an alleged Russian-backed coup attempt in 2016. The former CIA operative, Joseph Assad, has rejected the charges, saying he had been in Montenegro to provide personal security advice to a western political consultant, and calling on the US to reject any extradition request.

Reuters ran a story at the beginning of this week that aimed to draw attention to the high amount of debt that Montenegro is carrying because of its plans for a Chinese-built highway connecting the coastal port of Bar with the Serbian-bordering town of Boljare.

The US mission in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, has urged people to avoid the area following a grenade attack on the diplomatic premises by an unknown assailant, who subsequently used a second device to commit suicide.

Donald Trump has just approved Montenegro as NATO’s newest member state. The move is contentious as Montenegro was bombed in the illegal 1999 NATO war of aggression against Yugoslavia of which it was then a part. Montenegro peacefully split from Serbia in 2006 to become a small independent state.

Despite a last-minute objection by Senator Rand Paul, who was in turn labeled an agent of Vladimir Putin by Senator John McCain, the Senate has approved Montenegro’s accession to NATO to “send a message” to Russia. “With Russia’s resurgence and quest for renewed great power status, NATO has given notice that it will stand up for Western democracies too — and has continued to do so,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the Senate approved Montenegro’s accession to NATO.

The statement of the Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic concerning his resignation and the transfer of powers including the formation of a new parliament is actively discussed In Montenegro. Despite a positive outcome for the opposition forces the situation has not changed. Djukanovic explained his resignation by an anti-governmental conspiracy involving foreign intelligence services and the Serbian minority. Under the pretext of dealing with “conspirators” arrests of opposition leaders and activists are being continued in the country.

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