The coup plotters in Montenegro were financed by GRU

Hundreds of thousands Euro discovered during searches, the coup was masterminded by three Russians in Belgrade

Photo: AP Montenegrin police officers walk off with the arrested coup plotter.

This should have happened on the eve of the elections on 16 October 2016. The coup plotters planned to break into the parliament afterwards, guised in police uniforms and launch into power a pro-Russian government. Their aim was to block the country’s membership in NATO, BBC broadcast reminding that Montenegro joined the Alliance in 2017.

However, the attempted coup failed after the secret services got hold of the information about it and the coup plotters were arrested. Following the arrests Milo Djukanovic disclosed that                 €125,000 and uniforms were found during the raid.  During the pleading of the case special prosecutor Katnic announced that “Russian nationalist” were involved in it. 

Оrganisers

Russian citizens Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov were found guilty as organisers of the coup and were nominally sentenced to 12 and 15 years, respectively. According to Bellingcat and Insider, both men are officers of the GRU, whereas the real name of Popov is Moiseev.

Initially the Montenegrin investigation was based on the testimony of two key defendants – Mirko Velimirovic (who surrendered to the authorities) and nationalist Alexander Sindjelic, head of the pro-Kremlin organization Serbian Wolves who fought in Donbass. According to Sindjelic’s testimony, the Russian nationalists got in touch with him and introduced themselves as Eduard Shirokov and Vladimir Popov. They made it clear that they were working for the special services. They tabled a plan for a shift of power in Montenegro with a view to prevent the country from joining NATO. Sindjelic also announced in the courtroom that Shirokov (Shishmakov – Ed.’s note) himself bought him a ticket to Moscow and met him at the airport. They did not pass the passport control not to leave any trace of the Montenegrin’s stay in Russia. Shirokov had the architectural plan of the Parliament building in Podgorica and showed to Sindjelic how to capture the building.     

Arrests

On 17 October 2016, on the day of parliamentary elections, the coup plotters from Serbia and Montenegro had to enter the Parliament disguised as policemen. They had to fake an assault over the peaceful demonstrators who gathered there and to seize power under this pretext. After that it was planned that the power will go to the hands of the anti-NATO and pro-Russian party Democratic front. For the first stage of the operation Sinjelic was paid over €200,000 in cash. 

Arsenal

After the plot was exposed the Montenegrin authorities arrested 20 people and reported that they found 50 rifles and 50 pistols. A little later, on 24 October, three Russian citizens were arrested in Serbia, with whom, according to Serbian police, were found fake uniforms of the Montenegrin police officers, €122,000 in cash and equipment for coded telecommunication. Later the Belgrade authorities handed over the three Russians to Moscow after the secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev visited Serbia.

Shishmakov was also exposed as recruiting agent in Warsaw

In the course of the journalistic inquiry by Bellingcat and Insider it was found out that Eduard Shirokov (whose real name is Shishmakov) studied at Military Diplomatic Academy with the Russian Ministry of Defence. In the slang of GRU this educational establishment which hatches military attaches and military intelligence officers is called the Conservatoire. The private automobile of Shishmakov was registered at the address of the Conservatoire. Later he served as Navy attaché at the Russian embassy in Warsaw. However, Shishmakov was expelled from Poland after he tried to recruit a lieutenant colonel of the Polish army. Regardless of this flop in May 2016 he received a new international passport but with a new surname – Shirokov. The GRU agent went to Serbia with exactly that passport where he again proved to be a failure, this time in connection with the operation in Montenegro. The Montenegrin Prosecutor’s Office very promptly managed to confirm in part the testimony of Sindjelic, they also got hold of a photo featuring the meeting of the coup plotters in a Belgrade park.

Bellingcat and Insider managed to find out the real family name and CV data of the second coup plotter who was on the international ‘wanted’ list of the Montenegrin authorities under the name Vladimir Popov. This was the cover name of Vladimir Nikolaevich Moiseev born 29 May 1980. His date of birth and his name and patronymic coincide with those of his cover name. Actually GRU made the same mistake with Shishmakov as it made with Alexander Mishkin who was charged with poisoning the former turncoat agent Sergey Skripal, which facilitated the work of Bellingcat and Insider. Moiseev graduated from the Military School in Tyumen and then was transferred to Moscow where he was trained for the service in specialised units of GRU. Nikita Minin who was also exposed after an attempted coup in Montenegro served there too. The hotel reservation in Belgrade was made from his telephone. In a conversation with Insider Minin said that Popov works together with him for a magazine dealing with marine insurance. Before that the two “insurers” were in Ukraine in 2014. Besides, Popov visited other countries of Eastern Europe, such as Bulgaria, Georgia, Poland, Moldova, etc. Before 2015, Moiseev lived in a hostel of his military base. After that his wealth status apparently improved considerably. Now he lives in the Moscow district of Cheryomushki, same as his neighbour Mishkin. Moiseev moved to his state-owned apartment only several months later.        

Having in mind that Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, another GRU agent involved in the poisoning of Skripal, were granted their apartments as an “bonus” to the title of the Hero of Russia one can assume that Moiseev was also extended this courtesy by Putin, Insider maintains.  

Malofeev and Reshetnikov have lent a shoulder

Soon after the foiled coup d’état in Montenegro, on 2 November 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree by virtue of which Leonid Reshetnikov, director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI) was relieved of his post. The former KGB agent on the Balkans and later Lieutenant-General of the Foreign Intelligence Service has been holding the RISI director’s office for eight years.  He gave up his seat to Mikhail Fradkov who previously was the chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service. The intelligence vets should not have had anything to do with the scholarly work at the research institute but actually RISI is deeply involved in “applied activities” owing to which Reshetnikov was fired, insider underscores.      

Bosnia

Reshetnikov took very active part in the activities on the Balkans as along with that he worked in close cooperation with another strange character, the so-called Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, owner of Tsargrad TV channel. The two of them were helping the Kremlin pet Milorad Dodik to stay in power during the elections in the Serb Republic (Bosnia-Herzegovina) for which they were decorated with the order of Njegos after the vote.

Apart from their common work towards defending the interests of the Kremlin in Eastern Europe, Reshetnikov and Malofeev are united by their ostensible piety. On these grounds they chummed up with Georgi Shevkunov (Father Tikhon) known as “spiritual counsellor” of Putin. With him Malofeev concerted his actions during the Russian invasion in Donbass.    

Adventure

Several days after the failed coup in Montenegro, the Byelorussian historian Alexander Usovski, who executes the orders of the Orthodox oligarch in some Eastern European countries, wrote a letter to Director General of Tsarigrad TV Elena Sharoikina offering her his services in Poland. In this letter, he underscores that after the Polish project is crowned with success no one will remind to Malofeev about the “failure of the Montenegrin adventure”. It is noteworthy that in his testimony Sindjelic underlined that in Moscow he met with the GRU agents in somebody’s “palatial apartment”, which prompts that Malofeev was probably involved in it.  The Orthodox oligarch himself declined comments on it before Insider.   

Activists

However, if the extent of Malofeev’s involvement in the attempted coup raises questions, then the participation of Reshetnikov in the work of RISI is borne out by many facts. Among them is the correspondence of Usovski which leaked to the internet.

For example he was on correspondence with RISI employee Nikolay Podchasov for whom in September 2016 he searched (and found) Serbian activists. Podchasov forwards the list to his “superiors” and later Usovski inquires whether the candidates are approved and whether he can come over to take the money. Apparently Reshetnikov used the resource of his institute to solve his political issues, Insider underlines. 

Money order sent from the intelligence headquarters

Shishmakov tried to exonerate himself when in December 2017 he sent in an explanatory comment to the Montenegrin Prosecutor’s Office. In this document he refers to himself as “Shirokov” and claims that he first met Sindjelic at a Moscow museum in 2015. After that he met the Montenegrin only once in Belgrade to ask him to arrange an interview with the leader of Serbian Chetnik movement.

However, the Prosecutor’s Office has at its disposal other evidence to which the GRU agent cannot provide explanation. One of them is the money order for €800 sent by Shishmakov to Sindjelic on 25 September 2016, less than a month prior to the events in Montenegro. Probably in haste the superscription mentions the following address: Moscow, 76, Khoroshevskoye Blvd.  As it is known from the previous publications by Insider this is the building housing the headquarters of GRU. On the receipt kept in the bank there is a signature of Shishmakov.

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