10:11 GMT +319 October 2019
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    The newly elected Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic (C) delivers a speech during a ceremony at the Montenegro Parliament in Podgorica

    Montenegro Wants to Have a Foot in Both Camps in Ties With Russia, NATO

    © AFP 2019 / Savo PRELEVIC
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    Newly-appointed Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic said that his government will try to complete the country’s accession to NATO and "overcome misunderstandings in relations with its historic ally Russia."

    In turn, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova underscored that Moscow is open to constructive dialogue with all partners, including Podgorica. She added that Russia expects practical steps by the Montenegrin government to ease tensions in bilateral ties. 

    Dusko Markovic is a former intelligence chief and a close ally to former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic who has been an avid supporter of Montenegro’s membership of NATO.

    Until recently, Djukanovic ruled Montenegro since the early-1990s and has contributed a lot to deepening tensions between Podgorica and Moscow. Djukanovic called for NATO to accelerate the procedure of Montenegro’s accession to the military bloc due to the Ukrainian crisis.

    Djukanovic is the leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro which won the recent parliamentary election on October 16.

    During the campaign, he insisted that the vote would be a choice between the West and becoming a "Russian colony."

    The vote was shadowed by allegation of a coup attempt foiled on the election day and an assassination attempt against Djukanovic. Prosecutors have accused "nationalists from Russia" of being behind the alleged plot.

    In turn, the Kremlin rebuffed the allegations, saying that Russia played no role in the alleged coup plot and assassination attempt.

    Ahead of the election, Djukanovis also accused some opposition groups of receiving funds from Russia.

    New Prime Minister Markovic is considered to be a protégé of Djukanovis who still has leverage to influence the policy of the Montenegrin government. However, Markovic is likely to apply a political course aimed at both NATO and Russia.

    To a great extent, the future of relations between Russia and Montenegro depends on whether Podgorica will withdraw from anti-Russian sanctions or not, according to Pavel Kandel, a research fellow at the Institute for European Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    "Until Podgorica takes concrete steps towards Russia, all these statements by the government are just rhetoric aimed to win support of pro-Russian voters," he said in an interview with Sputnik Serbia.

    The expert said that Podgorica needs to make a "symbolic gesture" to indicate that it really wants normalization with Moscow.

    He added that currently there are certain obstacles complicating Russia-Montenegro normalization.

    "Moscow’s stance on the expansion of NATO is well-known. At the same time, Montenegro will continue its pro-NATO policy," he said.

    Moreover, normalization will depend on the situation with the attempted coup and alleged involvement of "Russian nationals" in it. Currently, the opposition is boycotting the parliament, demanding evidence of the coup.

    "The boycott is not good for the reputation of the government, so the government may try to settle the issue. At the same time, the government cannot abandon this conspiracy theory because this would compromise them," Kandel said.

    Milan Knezevic, president of the opposition Democratic People’s Party, said he doubts new prime minister’s intension to normalize ties with Russia.

    "He accused Russia of interfering with the election and provided no evidence to support his accusation. He also accused Russia of being behind the attempted coup. That’s all a lie. And how can this man talk about normalization with Russia?" Knezevic told Sputnik Serbia.

    Related:

    Montenegro Prospects in NATO Depend on US Decisions Made at 'Big Table'
    Montenegro’s Opposition Wants to Form Coalition
    Montenegrin Parliament Narrowly Approves New Prime Minister Markovic, Government
    Moscow-NATO Relationship Unable to Move Forward in Current State - Russian Envoy
    Tags:
    attempted coup, normalization, election, tensions, NATO, Milo Djukanovic, Russia, Montenegro
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