Montenegro PM shrugs off violent demos calling for resignation
Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic on Monday brushed off violent protests calling for his resignation, insisting they were not a threat to his country's stability, AFP reports.
Riot police in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica fired tear gas on Saturday night to disperse several thousand people demanding free, fair elections organised by a transitional government in place of Djukanovic, in the third such clash in a week.
Fifteen police officers were injured in the latest unrest, including one who was hurt seriously, according to the interior minister.
But Djukanovic, speaking during an official visit to Slovenia, insisted Monday that his government could handle the protesters.
"These demonstrations are not a threat to the stability of Montenegro, which has shown its capacity to defend itself in a firm, efficient and organised manner against these attempts at destabilisation," he told a press conference.
Djukanovic, who has been in power since 1990, has accused the opposition of trying to prevent the country's NATO membership, saying he is convinced Russia is behind the protests.
He has previously rejected demands to resign, offering to call early elections after December's NATO meeting when the Balkan country is expected to be invited to join the alliance.
Djukanovic on Monday defended Montenegro's move to join NATO and its shift towards "new values which the country has not been very inclined to in the past".
"We know that many don't believe in this process and want to force us to turn back," he added.
Montenegro, which gained independence from neighbouring Serbia in 2006, has a strong Serbian community traditionally allied with Russia, which bitterly opposes the alliance's eastward expansion.
Many of those who have joined the recent protests are aligned with pro-Serb parties.