World Bulletin / News Desk
The White House ratcheted up its criticism of Russia on Wednesday, pointedly saying it had seen credible reports that Moscow backed an election-day attack in Montenegro last year.
A senior administration official -- speaking as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Moscow for difficult talks on Syria -- pointed the finger of blame at Russia for an alleged coup attempt during October's election.
"We are very concerned about Russian interference in the October elections in Montenegro," the official said, "including credible reports of Russian support for an attempted election-day attack on the government."
A special prosecutor in Montenegro has accused Russian state bodies and the pro-Russian Democratic Front (DF) party of trying to overthrow the government, in an effort to prevent Montenegro from entering NATO.
Andrija Mandic, who is one of DF's two leaders and is among 25 people accused by the prosecutor, told AFP in March that the case was "a staged political process" to discredit him and his party. Mandic is a fierce opponent of his country's looming NATO accession.
A dozen of the accused were sentenced to several months' imprisonment after reaching a deal with the prosecutor.
Prominent Montenegrin lawyer Branislav Lutovac, who said the case was "full of contradictions," told AFP last month that these were "light sentences for serious crimes".
Wednesday's US comments came a day after President Donald Trump approved Montenegro's NATO accession and prepared to meet the alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House later in the day.
Despite initial hopes in Moscow of better ties with Washington under Trump, the US new president has tempered his praise of Putin, most recently condemning his support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad.
Trump's harder line comes amid growing questions about whether his aides and associates colluded with alleged Russian meddling in the US election. That line of inquiry has focused on Trump allies Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
Contested by a significant part of the predominantly Orthodox Slav population of Montenegro, the choice of former prime minister Milo Djukanovic to integrate it into NATO triggered protests in 2015 that turned violent.
Many fear that the demonstrations could resume when the parliament meets soon to ratify the accession.
Terrorists were reportedly plotting to attack Turkish bases
Israeli army says the attack came after rocket fire from Gaza
Trump's special representative has blamed Hamas for causing "misery" in Gaza
It is still a wide-open race to succeed President Enrique Pena Nieto, who is deeply unpopular heading into the final stretch of his six-year term in a Mexico beset by endless corruption scandals and record levels of violent crime.
His comments came as he faces criticism from survivors of the attack over his ties to the powerful National Rifle Association, and after several thousand rallied in Florida to demand urgent action on gun control.
Temer came to the city to meet Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao, several ministers and General Walter Souza Braga Netto, who will lead the operation and who was in charge of coordinating security when the city hosted the 2016 Olympic Games.
Muslims have suffered the most by far from ISIL’s terrorist attacks, Iraqi premier tells Munich Security Conference
Israel struck six targets affiliated with Hamas's armed wing in Gaza Strip, Palestinian security source says
Washington concurs with Ankara on need for locals taking control of liberated areas, says US defense secretary
Army uses live ammunition, rubber bullets to disperse stone-throwing Palestinians in West Bank, Gaza
"Deal of the Century" refers to a back-channel U.S. plan to settle the Palestine-Israel dispute
Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete and Alejandro Murat, governor of the state of Oaxaca, were on their way to survey the scene of the destruction left by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake when the accident occurred, the interior ministry tweeted.
The arrival of Trump and his wife Melania came at the end of a difficult day for the families of those killed in Wednesday's rampage at a high school in Parkland, Florida, who learned that the carnage could perhaps have been averted.
Trump to consider report suggesting high tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum imports