Montenegro coup trial of Serb, Russian nationalists delayed

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PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — The high-profile trial in Montenegro of two Russians and 12 other people charged with plotting a coup to scuttle the country's NATO bid was postponed on Wednesday over a defense motion to replace the prosecutor.

Judge Suzana Mugosa delayed the hearing until the top state prosecutor rules on the defense demand against the prosecutor and his team.

The 14 defendants — among them the Russians and two top opposition leaders — are charged with "creating a criminal organization." The Russians are additionally charged with terrorism.

The indictment alleges they planned to take over parliament, assassinate then-prime minister Milo Djukanovic and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

The Russians, identified as Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, allegedly coordinated the operation from neighboring Serbia. The two remain at large and will be tried in absentia.

One of the defendants, opposition leader Andrija Mandic, said Wednesday that the trial was a "staged political process." Defense lawyers alleged special prosecutor Milivoje Katnic and his team were "biased" and have "contaminated" the case.

Russia has denied involvement in the alleged plot. Montenegro joined NATO in June despite strong opposition from Moscow, which considers the small Adriatic country a historic, Slavic ally.

The trial is being broadcast live on Montenegrin state TV.

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