Montenegro will extradite 55 CIS citizens, believed to be mainly from Russia, and five Japanese citizens by the end of day on March 28. The 60 foreigners were arrested on suspicion of being members of the Japanese religious sect Aum Shinrikyo, which is banned in many countries.
The bizarre scandal could further damage relations between Russia and Montenegro which have steadily worsened since the Adriatic country received an invitation to join Nato in December last year. Russia, which has close ties with Montenegro and is a major investor, has fiercely opposed Nato’s expansion into its traditional sphere of influence.
In a raid on March 25, the police arrested the Russian and Japanese citizens in a hotel in Podgorica and in the nearby town of Danilovgrad, news service CDM reported. They were interrogated and later released. However, all of them are to be extradited as they do not have permits to stay in the country for more than 30 days, local daily Vijesti reported.
According to Vijesti, all those arrested had injuries on their necks and knees, allegedly slf-inflicted during a religious ritual.
The Aum Shinrikyo sect has been accused for number of terrorist attacks, including the deadly Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995, which killed 13 people and injured severely thousands.
The links to Aum Shinrikyo have been widely reported by the local media, but there has been no formal confirmation. So far, no official reaction from Russia’s embassy in Podgorica or from the foreign affairs ministry has been made available to bne IntelliNews.
In a March 26 statement, the Russian foreign ministry said the 60 foreign nationals has been detained by Montenegro police on “suspicion of being involved in international organised crime”.
“No charges were brought against them. However, the individuals are soon to be deported for failing to have their stay duly registered in the country,” the ministry added.
While Montenegro is progressing towards EU and Nato membership, the opposition still favour ties with Russia and Serbia. Montenegrin news service Portalanalitika.me quoted the leader of the pro-Russian Movement for Changes (PzP), Nebojsa Medojevic, as saying that the extradition is a consequence of “paranoia and fear” on the part of prime minister Milo Djukanovic.
In February, broadcaster RTCG reported that Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin was among 50 Russian politicians and businesspeople banned from entering Montenegro.