PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegrin lawmakers voted on Wednesday to lift the immunity of two key opposition leaders allegedly involved in a pro-Russian plot to overthrow the government over its NATO bid.
The move paves the way for the detention of Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, senior opposition politicians suspected in the Oct. 16 coup attempt that included plans to kill a then-prime minister and take over power.
Several hundred opposition supporters protested outside the parliament building in the capital of Podgorica as lawmakers from the ruling coalition unanimously approved the motion.
Montenegro's special prosecutor said the two are suspected of criminal conspiracy and inciting "acts against constitutional order and security of Montenegro."
Mandic and Knezevic have denied the accusations.
Mandic, who made several recent visits to Moscow where he received support from the Kremlin for his anti-NATO stance, said "we cannot be intimidated."
"It is a lie that anyone of us has anything to do with the phony coup," he told supporters.
Some 20 people — including two Russian citizens — have been accused in the foiled election day ploy said to be orchestrated by Russian and Serbian nationalists in order to stop Montenegro's accession into NATO.
The Kremlin, opposed to further NATO expansion in Europe, has actively supported anti-NATO groups in Montenegro but denied involvement in the alleged coup plan.
The nation of 620,000 people is deeply divided between those who want to join NATO and other Western institutions and those who seek close ties with traditional Slavic ally Russia.
Montenegro's membership bid is expected to be completed this spring.