PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Russian tourists are flocking to Montenegro despite warnings from Moscow against visiting its former ally and the latest NATO-member country.
Montenegro's tourism organization said Sunday that during the first six months of 2017, Russians accounted for more than 179,000 overnight visitor stays in the picturesque Adriatic Sea country, four times more than during the same period last year.
Even before Montenegro joined NATO in June, Russia's Foreign Ministry had warned Russians against visiting the nation that previously was a traditional Russian ally in the Balkans.
"There is an anti-Russian hysteria in Montenegro," the Foreign Ministry said.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned Russians they could face arrest or expulsion in Montenegro.
Russia has threatened economic and political retaliation against the tiny country's decision to join NATO, including a campaign to undermine the Montenegrin tourism industry, which relies heavily on Russian visitors. The Kremlin is accused of masterminding a coup attempt in October to prevent it from joining the Western military alliance.
Montenegrin officials said they have continued promoting the country as a vacation spot with a tourism campaign.
"The activities have shown we have been successful in increasing the tourist flow, including the Russians," tourism board director Zeljka Radak-Kukavicic.
An estimated 200,000 Russians visit Montenegro every year and thousands of Russians own property here.
During the past 15 days alone, about 13,000 Russians arrived at the seaside airport of Tivat, 15 percent more than during the same period last year.