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MOSCOW, December 23. /TASS/. If Montenegro joins NATO without a referendum, it will be a violation of democratic principles and may result in protests, Russian State Duma Deputy Chairman Sergey Zheleznyak told journalists on Wednesday.
The Montenegrin government earlier reported that Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Igor Luksic received a letter from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with an official invitation to join the North Atlantic Alliance.
"Montenegro’s accession to NATO without a national referendum is a violation of democratic principles, it strips the people of the voting right in the most important issue of the country’s political future and may provoke civil disobedience," Zheleznyak said.
Russia understands and shares the importance of holding a plebiscite with Montenegro, he added noting that it allows people to express their will freely and democratically. "Russia will respect any decision of the Montenegrin people which should be clearly expressed and not subject to interpretations," he said.
"The Montenegrin leadership tries to use existing disagreements between large international forces, forgetting about the interests of its own people," Zheleznyak concluded.
On December 16 Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a briefing that the Montenegrin society is deeply divided on the issue of joining NATO and called for a referendum on joining the North Atlantic Alliance.
"The situation in Montenegro is difficult," Zakharova said. "We are talking about an internal political crisis accompanied by popular protests. So, deep divisions persist in the Montenegrin society, first of all on the issue of the country’s NATO membership," she added. "We think that the Montenegrin people should have their say at the referendum on this issue," she added. "This would be a manifestation of democracy that we call for," she stressed.