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The Latest: Russia: Montenegro adds little to NATO

Associated Press logo Associated Press 28/04/2017

CETINJE, Montenegro — The Latest on Montenegro and NATO membership (all times local):

6:00 p.m.

Russia's foreign ministry is denouncing the Montenegrin parliament's ratification of NATO membership.

In a Friday statement, the ministry took a dismissive swipe at the country's size and military capability, saying that "Given the potential of Montenegro, the North Atlantic alliance is unlikely to receive significant 'added value'."

It said that the parliament's move "without taking into account the opinion of the people of the country, is a demonstrative act of trampling all democratic norms and principles."

The ministry says the decision serves the interests of "external forces" that aim to drive a wedge between Montenegro and Russia.

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4:55 p.m.

Montenegro's former prime minister Milo Djukanovic says the approval of NATO membership is the most important decision the country has made in recent history.

Djukanovic said Friday after parliament voted to ratify the accession treaty that membership in NATO presents an honor for Montenegro and its history.

Djukanovic was the head of government in October when pro-Russian plotters allegedly planned his assassination as part of an attempted coup to thwart Montenegro's NATO bid.

Djukanovic also led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006.

He says that "after long suffering and roaming through history, (Montenegro) is finally in the position where it logically, historically, civilization-wise and culturally belongs."

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4:05 p.m.

Lawmakers in Montenegro have ratified the membership treaty with NATO, taking a historic turn toward the West despite protests from Russia and the pro-Russian opposition.

All 46 lawmakers present at the session voted in favor of Montenegro becoming a NATO member. The parliament has 81 seats but pro-Russia opposition lawmakers boycotted the session in the historic capital of Cetinje.

Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said earlier in a speech that NATO membership will present a guarantee for Montenegro's future security, economic progress and regional stability.

Several hundred pro-Russia opposition supporters rallied in protest of the vote. Demonstrators burned a NATO flag and chanted "Treason" before peacefully dispersing.

Russia has been angered by NATO expansion in Montenegro, Moscow's traditional zone of interest. Montenegro has accused Russia of being behind a foiled election-day coup in October allegedly designed to throw the country off its path toward NATO. Russia has denied this.

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3:05 p.m.

Montenegro's prime minister has urged lawmakers in to support NATO membership, saying that it will present a guarantee for Montenegro's future security, economic progress and regional stability.

Dusko Markovic has told lawmakers during a speech in parliament that "this assembly and its members have a historic privilege to make a decision that will be remembered as long as there is Montenegro and Montenegrins.

He says that "this day will be marked among the brightest in our history."

Pro-Russia opposition parties are boycotting the session and have held a demonstration instead.

Anti-NATO demonstrators chanted "Treason!" and "Thieves!" and burned a NATO flag during a protest before peacefully dispersing. A banner read: "NATO murderers, your hands are bloody!"

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11:25 a.m.

Montenegrin lawmakers are set to ratify the Balkan country's membership in NATO and make a historic turn toward the West despite protests from traditional ally Russia and pro-Russian opposition.

The Montenegrin parliament will convene later on Friday to ratify the accession treaty with the Western military alliance. Opposition parties say they will boycott the session and hold a demonstration instead.

Montenegro's pro-NATO government has urged lawmakers to approve the entry protocol. Officials have said that joining NATO will bring stability and economic benefits after centuries of turmoil.

The government says: "In the current geo-political environment, Montenegro must rationally look at all options and make a decision that will best protect its national, security and economic interests."

Russia has been angered by NATO expansion in Montenegro, Moscow's traditional zone of interest.

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