WASHINGTON The United States said on Wednesday there are credible reports that Russia attempted to interfere in elections last October in Montenegro, which formally became a member of NATO this week.
The accusation came as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Russian officials in Moscow and as President Donald Trump prepared to meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House.
"We are very concerned about Russian interference in the October elections in Montenegro, including credible reports of Russian support for an attempted election day attack on the government," a senior White House official told reporters at a briefing ahead of Stoltenberg's visit.
The official said Washington supports efforts by Montenegrin authorities to investigate.
Trump signed ratification papers on Tuesday accepting Montenegro into the NATO alliance.
A special prosecutor in the former Yugoslav republic said in November a group of "Russian nationalists" had planned to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to get an opposition party into power.Moscow denied involvement in any plot, and Montenegrin opposition parties have said the plot was fabricated and accused Djukanovic of using the security services to help extend his quarter century of dominance.
The White House official said Montenegro's NATO membership will increase stability and security in the western Balkans.
"After meeting the rigorous standards to join the alliance Montenegro's accession will make clear that no third country has a veto over a country’s sovereign decision to join NATO. So the door to membership in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations remains open," the official said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by James Dalgleish)