A photograph that shows a billboard ad celebrating a Trump-Putin "friendship" with a caption, "Let's make the world great again -- together" has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter. The image, showing the U.S. President-elect Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia is genuine, according to the online fact-checker Snopes, and was published originally by Getty Images (see below) on November 16, 2016.
The viral image shows cars passing by a billboard featuring Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Danilovgrad, a town with a population of more than 5,000 in central Montenegro.
The billboard was reportedly placed by a "shadowy" pro-Russian Serbian nationalist group called In4s soon after Trump and Putin spoke on the phone and agreed to improved bilateral relations, as reported by RT.Pro-Russian groups in Montenegro have lately intensified propaganda campaign lionizing Putin and touting his influence in the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. According to pro-Russian propaganda, the election of Trump heralds a new era of global peace through friendship between Putin and Trump.
The appearance of the billboard sparked public uproar in Montenegro, coming only about a week after 20 members of a pro-Russian militia group that originated from neighboring Serbia were arrested and accused of involvement in a "Russian-linked plot" to assassinate Milo Djukanovic, prime minister of Montenegro, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
State prosecutors claimed to have uncovered a "Russian-linked plot" to overthrow the pro-Western government of Milo Djukanovic and replace it with a pro-Russian regime.
According to state prosecutors, a pro-Russian militia group hatched a plan to have a sniper shoot and kill Djukanovic. The purpose of the pro-Russian group was to curtail NATO's expansion in Eastern Europe by stopping Montenegro, formerly part of Yugoslavia, from joining the defense alliance.
"The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force," a statement released by Montenegrin state prosecutor Milivoje Katnic said, according to Reuters.
"State authorities revealed that a criminal group had been formed on the territories of Montenegro, Serbia and Russia with a task to commit an act of terrorism."According to Rferl.og, prosecutors have identified two Russian citizens involved in the alleged plot as Eduard Shirokov and Vladimir Popov. The two men allegedly met in Moscow on September 26 with Aleksandar Sindelic, the head of the nationalist Serbian Wolves organization and concluded a plan to assassinate the Montenegrin PM.
The Russians reportedly gave Sindelic 200,000 euros to carry out the assassination plan.
According to The Guardian, the men had planned to storm the Montenegrin parliament in Podgorica, shoot and kill the prime minister, topple the government and install a pro-Russian regime.
Sindelic was one of 20 Serbian and Montenegrin citizens arrested in Podgorica on October 16 in connection with the alleged plot. A group of Russian citizens were also arrested in Serbia in connection with the plot. The men were reportedly caught with special forces uniforms and 120,000 euros.
But the whereabouts of Shirokov and Popov were unknown.Many of the men implicated in the alleged plot had served with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Sindelic reportedly confessed that he was recruited by two Russians he had met while fighting for pro-Russian militia forces in eastern Ukraine.
Although Russia has denied involvement in the alleged plot, observers are unanimous that Russian fingerprints in the plot are glaring.
The Putin-Trump "friendship" ad campaign by Pro-Russian Serbian groups in Montenegro has intensified, apparently undeterred by the recent uncovering of an alleged plot to overthrow the government of the country.
In a recent post to its website, In4s, the pro-Russian and Serbian group that placed the billboard, condemned President Barack Obama for supporting what it described as the "criminal regime of Milo Djukanovic," according to The Sun.
The Washington Post also featured the "Putin-Trump Friendship image" in a November 18 article. According to the article, citizens in the city of Obninsk in Russia were planning a rally in support of Trump scheduled for Saturday, November 19.
The rally was reportedly organized by 27-year-old political blogger Artyom Mainas from Obninsk, a town 60 miles south of Moscow.
According to The Washington Post, Mainas organized the rally as a response to anti-Trump demonstrations in the U.S.
"I believe it is very important to support him [Trump] here in Russia," he said, according to The Washington Post.
The latest developments have raised fears among European allies of the U.S. that Putin is planning to take advantage of the election of Trump -- who appears to have committed his administration to friendly relations with Russia -- to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its NATO allies and then go on a geostrategic offensive in neighboring Balkan states.
[Featured Image by ArtursD/Shutterstock]