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Montenegro parliament convenes amid opposition boycott

Associated Press Associated Press 7/11/2016 By PREDRAG MILIC, Associated Press

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegrin lawmakers convened on Monday for the first time since last month's election, with opposition parties boycotting the inaugural session amid tensions over an alleged foiled coup attempt orchestrated by Russian nationalists.

The session in the historic capital of Cetinje was attended by 42 lawmakers of the 81-seat parliament, including members of the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists and allied groups.

It was held a day after Montenegro's special prosecutor said unidentified Russian nationalists were behind the election day plot to assassinate the country's prime minister and take over power because of his government's NATO membership bid.

The Kremlin has denied involvement.

"We categorically deny the possibility of official involvement in any attempt to organize illegal actions of any sort," Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russia's Interfax news agency. He added that Montenegro has not filed any formal request that Russia investigate any of its citizens.

Some 20 Serbian and Montenegrin citizens were arrested in Montenegro during the Oct. 16 vote for allegedly planning to overthrow the government. Two Russian operatives have reportedly been deported from neighboring Serbia after they monitored Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's movements.

Montenegrin officials have suggested that some opposition politicians could face legal action because of their alleged ties to the coup plotters.

"We have evidence and conditions are being formed to press charges," Djukanovic told reporters on Monday. "All this was about politics."

Opposition parties have rejected the election results, claiming the vote was rigged. The DPS won 36 seats, followed by the opposition Democratic Front with 18 seats.

Democratic Front leader Andreja Mandic on Monday accused Djukanovic's party of staging the alleged coup attempt to stay in power.

Mandic said the opposition had warned the state prosecutor of the plans days ahead of the balloting.

"Apparently, he (the prosecutor) has chosen to serve DPS in their dishonest activities," Mandic insisted.

The small country of some 620,000 people has been invited to formally join NATO next year. Russia has opposed the bid by its traditional Slavic ally and has openly supported the anti-NATO opposition in Montenegro.

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