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Montenegro detains Russians, Montenegrins on suspicion of spying -report

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Authorities in Montenegro have detained 38 people, mainly Russian nationals, on suspicion of espionage, Montenegrin daily Pobjeda reported on Thursday, citing unidentified sources.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said on a live broadcast of a cabinet ession that an “international operation” with foreign partners and the state prosecutor’s office was underway to preserve the country’s interests, but he did not elaborate.

Montenegro, a NATO member and an candidate for membership in the European Union, has joined international sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. It has expelled Russian diplomats in the past.

Pobjeda said operatives of Montenegro’s Agency for National Security (ANB) and the Special State Prosecutor’s office (SDT) had detained six Russian diplomats, 30 Russian nationals with temporary residence permits, and two Montenegrins on suspicion of espionage.

The Russian embassy did not immediately answer calls from Reuters seeking comment. Officials at the ANB and SDT could not be immediately reached for comment.

In 2016, Montenegro accused Russian agents of involvement in a plot to bring the pro-Russian opposition to power, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and halt the integration of the former Yugoslav republic into NATO.

Moscow has repeatedly dismissed such accusations as absurd. Montenegro joined the Western military alliance in 2017.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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