The news was a complete surprise. It was brutal and almost unexpected. It is not quite an ordinary thing, on the day of parliamentary elections, in one of the European countries, to report on the arrests of the group that intended to influence election results, shoot the voters and take away the freedom of the current prime minister. And that is what happened on the election Sunday, October 16, 2016, in Montenegro.
The chief of state police officially announced that day, in the middle of the election afternoon, when usually the news on the percentage of participation in the elections are being published, that they arrested a group of people who were planning to take over the parliament and arrest prime minister Milo Đukanović. He added that the group came from neighbouring Serbia and that the leader of the group is former commander of a special unit of the Serbian police, Gendarmerie, Tomislav Bata Dikić.
Later in the evening, we already had the first election results. The Milo Đukanović’s party had a convincing victory, although with too few parliamentary seats to form government alone.
And the subject of how to form a new government became a major political issue. The news about the arrest of possible coupists somehow remained on the side. As if they did not know what to do with it.
A day or two later, the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, convened a session of the best-informed associates in terms of security and intelligence. His statement was also surprising. He confirmed that the Serbian security services had followed several groups who wanted to influence the elections in neighbouring Montenegro and carefully monitored daily habits and work schedule of Milo Đukanović. During his speech, Vučić added that the activities of these groups, and it was not clear whether they were three or four, were organized and financed from abroad, and that he did not want the whole thing to end up being as the Bagzi case. This latest sentence, difficult to understand for the most of curious foreigners, diplomats and others, was also the most telling one.
On February 20, 2003, in the morning, the then Serbian prime minister Zoran Đinđić was travelling on the highway that leads from Belgrade towards Šid and Serbian – Croatian border. Like many times in those turbulent years of democratic Serbia, he was travelling with his entourage to the international airport Surčin, from where he was to continue his trip on his visit to Banja Luka. Suddenly, despite all the security measures and totally unexpected, a relatively small Mercedes truck tried to cut off a motorcade of black state BMW vehicles. A serious accident was prevented by the drivers of one of the vehicles in the motorcade, although they were the officials of VI Directorate of the Security Intelligence Agency who were responsible for Đinđić’s security. The same morning, a coordinated action of explanation was initiated, that it was a simple traffic violation and nothing else, that poor Milenković, trying to achieve his daily rate, simply overlooked a lot of police cars and the vehicle under escort, that he probably lost his orientation in space and therefore misjudged that they were driving in the middle of an empty highway and he just did not notice a lot of blue lights. I remember at least one of my co-workers at the embassy, who enthusiastically assured me that it was all just a coincidence that was necessary to forget as soon as possible.
Although Dejan Milenković, nicknamed Bagzi, who was mentioned by Vučić in his appearance a few days ago, was a member of the so-called Surčin Clan. The then Serbian Interior Minister Dušan Mihajlović told me that he was directly involved in some liquidations, and Žarko Korać, deputy prime minister, that it was an assassination attempt on Đinđić.
Exactly this was confirmed later. On that day, they tried to stage an accident and kill the prime minister with heavy weaponry. There were various reasons for that, but only two will be sufficient for today’s thoughts. Đinđić was convinced that the Serbian government must cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and he was even more convinced that Serbia was part of the European Union.
Of course, the police detained Bagzi, however, only a day or two later, he left Belgrade prisons with all the releasing papers and went in an unknown direction. It was announced that it was all just a coincidence. Almost a month later, prime minister Đinđić was assassinated.
I understood Vučić’s short sentence that he did not want Bagzi to happen again in this context.
We now have already three necessary elements for the assessment.
There were parliamentary elections, the Montenegrin police special units arrested on the same day, Sunday 16 October, a group that planned to influence the election result and the third part is that Prime Minister Vučić said that there were more organized groups under the same name, in which the money and the necessary equipment was found. And then he added all about Bagzi, as an opportunity of intents, assassinations and unrests.
On Tuesday, the members of the Serbian Parliament commented on Vučić’s allegations. One of them, Čedomir Jovanović, was very specific in his assessment. That there has been a brutal war against Serbia for years, with an aim to prevent the country from becoming a part of Europe, that he thinks that the war is coming from the Russian East, and that Đukanović’s opponents were supplied with money from the same address.
My friend, one of the most famous Belgrade lawyers, who was also a former interior minister, Božo Prelević, at a time when the Montenegrin government joined EU sanctions against Russia, because of the military occupation of the peninsula of Crimea, told me about his late father. A conscientious Montenegrin, a soldier in the second great war and the officer with the highest military ranks in the Yugoslav army. If he had suddenly waken up and risen from the grave, Prelević started, and heard that we rebelled against Russian friends, he would have quite certainly died of heart attack or grief again immediately.
I am repeating this to show what kind of problematic and probably very difficult to understand decision was signed by Milo Đukanović on behalf of Montenegro. He opted for Europe. And for membership of the country in the Western defense alliance. All this at a time when the official Moscow has already usurped the right to decide which Western Balkan countries can be members of the European connections.
The authorities in Podgorica, capital of Montenegro, said that the membership of the country in defence alliance NATO is not directed against anyone, and least of all against Russia, and that the strategy according to which good relations with Moscow are one of the key priorities remains in force. The assessment of irresponsibility of key Montenegrin politicians was repeated.
Lavrov’s private visit to this country in late July this year, when he stopped for a brief rest in the Bay of Kotor, did not bring anything new. Specifically, influential Russian foreign minister did not meet his colleague, Montenegrin foreign minister, or the Prime Minister Đukanović. There was only some kind of Russian demand that the authorities in Podgorica revise their foreign policy decisions on membership in the European Union and the NATO alliance, in a referendum.
It was more or less clear that the October parliamentary elections in Montenegro would not be able to be only a regular, democratic testing of will of the citizens on whether the power should be again taken by Milo Đukanović’s party or left to his political opponents.
The last parliamentary elections in Montenegro were also a large vote on support of policy of the membership of the state in the European Union and the NATO alliance.