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Demonstrators protest against Montenegro

“NATO murderers, your hands are bloody!” continues to be a popular slogan on banners at rallies against the alliance in Montenegro.

Montenegro has officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, though not without vocal opposition, and has justified the move by drumming up false alarm about Russian interference, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Monday.

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A day earlier, Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic stated that Moscow had attempted to “interfere” in its “internal affairs,” given itsopposition to the NATO alliance.

“Russia openly interfered in our internal affairs, what we, of course, do not approve. Russia has been pursuing a policy of spheres of interest, opposing the expansion of NATO. We decided to define our main goals by ourselves, and we were surprised by how much Russia intervened,” the minister said, Sputnik reported.

In response, Zakharova stated, “The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly commented numerous statements of Montenegrin politicians about an alleged Russian threat, about meddling in domestic affairs, and so on. All these steps were necessary to justify the country’s NATO accession in the eyes of the nation.”

Protesters burned the NATO flag on April 28, 2017, during a protest against the Montenegro’s accession to NATO in Cetinje.

Montenegro was invited to join NATO in December 2015, and was signed into accession on May 19, 2016, by NATO member states. The accession process is expected to finish by June 2017.

When the Montenegrin Parliament officially ratified the country’s membership last month, hundreds of people had protested outside Parliament buildings, chanting “Treason!” and “Thieves!” before burning a NATO flag.

Former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, who was an ally of Serbia before Montenegro split from the country in 2006, had called that day “a sad day,” telling protesters, “I feel humiliated as this decision has been taken on my behalf.”

For many opposed to NATO in the country, the memory of the alliance’s 1999 Operation Allied Force — a 78-day deadly and devastating U.S.-backed intervention of the former state of Yugoslavia, now Serbia and Montenegro — remains fresh.

“NATO murderers, your hands are bloody!” continues to be a popular slogan on banners at rallies that protest the alliance.