A Montenegrin court convicted 14 people accused of planning to violently overthrow the government in Russa-orchestrated coup attempt in October 2016 that was aimed at preventing Montenegro from joining NATO and keeping the small Balkan nation within Moscow’s sphere of influence.

The guilty individuals include pro-Russian Montenegrin opposition politicians and two Russians, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, both secret agents from the GRU – Moscow’s military intelligence. The Russian suspects were sentenced, in absentia,  to 12 and 15 years in prison.

According to the authorities in Montenegro, a group of Serb and Russian nationalists – two nations that have historically close ties – plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership.

Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, despite Moscow’s attempt to derail the process. Djukanovic was elected to the ceremonial post of president in 2018. His Democratic Party of Socialists have ruled Montenegro virtually unchallenged for decades, but his government is currently facing regular demonstrations by protesters accusing it of corruption and increased authoritarianism.