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Anti-Russian Remarks Land Montenegro Minister in Trouble

The pro-Serbian opposition demands resignation of Montenegro Foreign Minister for claims Russia is trying to destabilize the country

This article originally appeared at Balkan Insight

Pro-Serbian opposition parties in Montenegro have called on Foreign Minister Igor Luksic to quit for allegedly accusing the Serbian Orthodox Church, the opposition and some NGOs of working against the interests of Montenegro and on behalf of Russia.

The opposition DEMOS and NOVA called the claims "shameful", saying it was unbelievable that a minister could accuse such a significant part of society of working for the interests of another country.

The storm arose after the media published confidential diplomatic dispatches in which Luksic told senior German officials that Russia was trying to destabilize Montenegro.

The government has confirmed the authenticity of the leaked secret files on Thursday and said the security services were on the hunt for the mole in the Foreign Ministry.

A ministry official, Vesko Garcevic, said those found responsible for the "serious offence" of leaking confidential talks would be punished.

Garcevic, who is also the national coordinator for NATO, said that the disclosure of confidential diplomatic talks would not affect the country's Euro-Atlantic path.

"These documents did not present anything spectacular," he told the public broadcaster RTCG.

The daily newspaper Dan on Tuesday published a secret document of the Montenegrin embassy in Germany, after Luksic met German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on March 24.

The document quoted Luksic as saying that the lack of public support for Montenegro's NATO membership bid was "a consequence of the anti-NATO messages" of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the opposition and parts of civil society. He reportedly told to German officials also that "a reduction in economic activity of Russia is evident in Montenegro".

NOVA said that the "affair of the dispatches" revealed how the government acts in relation to Western officials.

"The aim is to manipulate representatives of those countries, presenting a a false picture of the situation in Montenegro," the party said.

Podgorica has been pushing to join the Western military alliance almost since it became independent in 2006.

As the promise of NATO membership gets closer - the government hopes to earn an invitation by the end of 2015 - Montenegro has distanced itself from its historic ally, Russia.

Last March, the government backed EU sanctions imposed on Moscow as a result of the Ukraine conflict, hoping it would bring the country closer to its goal of a place in NATO.

Moscow has repeatedly said in various contexts that Podgorica's NATO course runs counter to hundreds of years of "fraternal relations" between the two Slavic, Orthodox Christian nations.

In March, the Russian Ambassador to Montenegro, Andrei Nesterenko, said that his country saw no point in NATO's further expansion in existing conditions. However, he also said Russia was neither for nor against Montenegro's membership in NATO.

Last May, however, the Montenegrin media quoted a Russian Duma deputy, Mikhail Degtyarev, as saying that Montenegro would be "a legitimate target of Russian missiles" if it joined NATO.

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