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Russia raps Montenegrin MPs for bypassing referendum to ratify NATO bid

Russia has slammed the ratification of Montenegro’s membership in the NATO military alliance through a legislative vote rather than a referendum, describing it as a “violation of all democratic norms.”

“The adoption of fundamental acts, affecting the key issues of state security, by the vote of individual MPs on the basis of a formal majority without taking into account the opinion of the country’s people is a demonstrative act of violation of all democratic norms and principles,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Fiday.

The ministry further expressed “deep regret” that Montenegro’s “current leadership and its Western backers didn’t heed the voice of conscience and reason,” insisting that Moscow reserves the right to protect its national security following the move.

“Those who voted in the Skupstina [parliament] for joining NATO under the pretext of an imaginary Russian threat should take responsibility for the consequences of implementing the plans of external forces, seeking to deepen the division in Europe and the Balkans, drive a wedge into the historically-rooted friendly relations of Montenegrins with Serbs and Russians,” read the statement.

The development came after Montenegro’s legislature ratified earlier on Friday the law on the country’s accession to NATO, with all 46 lawmakers (out of a total of 81) present at the session backing the nation’s inclusion into the US-led military alliance.

Montenegro’s long time leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists Milo Djukanovic (C) attends the discussion on NATO membership agreement in the parliament in Cetinje on April 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The move took place in absence of members of the country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Front, who boycotted the session and instead staged a protest demanding a referendum on the NATO membership bid.

According to the report, the parliamentary vote followed a decision by US President Donald Trump to approve the Montenegro’s membership bid on April 11, with the White House declaring that the move will send a message to other aspirants that the “door to membership in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations remains open.”

Moscow decried Trump’s decision back then, saying it “reflects the logic of confrontation on the European continent and creates new dividing lines.”

Russia has been concerned over NATO’s expansion to the east to include states that Moscow considers to be in its sphere of influence. Ties between the two sides have deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the move sparked a major protest rally outside Montenegro’s parliament in Cetinje as hundreds of demonstrators chanted slogans against the military alliance and set ablaze NATO’s flag.

People shout slogans during a protest against the Montenegro’s accession to NATO in Cetinje on April 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Protesters also carried banners reading “NATO killers, you have blood on your hands” and “Never with NATO murderers.”

Montenegro, a country with a population of nearly 620,000 people that seceded from Serbia in 2006, was granted a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2009.

Since then the country remained split on the issue, with protests against NATO across the country only intensifying as the republic drew closer to becoming a member of the alliance.

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