BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A man photographed standing near Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week in Serbia is wanted in Montenegro on suspicion he took part in an alleged coup plot to overthrow its pro-Western government, officials said Thursday.
The photos published by Serbian media show Nemanja Ristic standing close to Lavrov during a ceremony for Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of Belgrade in 1944. Lavrov was in group photos with members of a far-right pro-Russian group to which Ristic belongs.
Montenegro Justice Minister Zoran Pazin was quoted as saying by Dnevne Novine daily that Serbia is obligated to extradite Ristic and two other Serbian citizens accused in the October plot to stop Montenegro from joining NATO.
About 20 people were arrested in Montenegro on election day on Oct. 16 for allegedly planning to kill the country's prime minister and take over the parliament building in the capital, Podgorica.
Two Russians, reportedly members of a Russian military spy agency, are also being sought by Montenegro for allegedly coordinating the action from Serbia. They were allowed to return to Russia despite admittance by Serbian officials that they were involved in tracking the movements of then Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic with sophisticated equipment.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement, but has openly supported Montenegrin groups opposed to the country, a traditional Slavic ally of Russia, becoming a NATO member.
Lavrov said in Belgrade that Djukanovic "betrayed" Russia by signing up for NATO membership and alleged that the Western military alliance seems to be in a hurry to sign up the small Balkan state before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in February.
It wasn't clear how Ristic, who was once ordered by a court to undergo psychiatric treatment for issuing death threats against a former U.S. ambassador in Belgrade, was allowed to get so close to Lavrov.
Ristic said that he was pictured with Lavrov "by accident."
He denied that he took part in the alleged coup plot, saying he was "framed" by another Serb who decided to speak to Montenegrin prosecutors.