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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 14:41 GMT
A broken man?
Slobodan Milosevic
Dark days: Milosevic's family has history of depression
By Paul Wood in Belgrade

There are few sights as pathetic as an ex-dictator.

And if reports circulating in Belgrade are to be believed, Slobodan Milosevic is running true to type: a broken man, living in hiding, waiting for the knock on the door which could mean jail either in Yugoslavia or in the Hague.

After 13 years of increasingly brutal rule, Mr Milosevic was psychologically ill-prepared to surrender office.

There is a family history of clinical depression - both parents and an uncle committed suicide

On the night last October when he was relieved of power, after the police and army had deserted him and as massive street protests continued, he was found wandering "confused" in his Dedinje residence by President Kostunica, who had arrived for talks.

A close associate of Mr Kostunica, who was briefed about the encounter, said Mr Milosevic pointed to broken lights, and even, bizarrely, to a broken toilet, and said he could not even give orders to get them mended.

Parliament in flames
As protests raged, Milosevic was wandering "confused", say reports
In a recent biography, witnesses describe Mr Milosevic as prone to long, black moods of despair. There is a family history of clinical depression; both parents and an uncle committed suicide.

Today in Belgrade, the family is said to pass the hours watching videos of romantic films and to have a large collection of Russian popular love songs that Mr Milosevic plays repeatedly in a reception room decorated with a personal portrait.

He refuses to watch television, it is said, because he cannot stand to see the frequent reports about the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.

Pistol carried everywhere

Whether this picture is true or exaggerated, Mr Milosevic has reason to feel under siege.

The new government is dramatically cutting the security guard which protects the Milosevic family day and night.

Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said it would be reduced to less than a quarter of its current strength of more than 40 personnel.

Milosevic is still coming to terms with the popular revolt
Mr Milosevic must fear that both the Nato snatch squads working for the Hague and bounty hunters in Serbia have taken note of this.

There is a reward of $5m for his capture and delivery to the Hague.

His inner circle is shrinking and there are few people that he can trust. That the former leader carries a Yugoslav-made automatic pistol everywhere he goes is not mere paranoia.

Milosevic's hostages

Former allies are turning on Mr Milosevic - people like the new Serbian Minister of Police and Deputy Prime Minister, Dusan Mihajlovic.

Asked whether he would feel uncomfortable arresting Mr Milosevic in view of the fact that he they were once very close, the new minister replied that he saw "no reason why anyone would feel uncomfortable to do what the law demands".

And commenting on whether Mr Milosevic would be extradited, Serbia's Justice Minister Vladan Batic said: "If we were hostages of Slobodan Milosevic while he was in power, it would be senseless to go on being his hostages now that he is no longer in power."

Although Mr Milosevic is a spent force politically, the battle with the remnants of his regime continues

President Kostunica does not favour extraditing his predecessor to the Hague and the Foreign Minister, Goran Svilanovic, says this runs the risk of making Mr Milosevic a national hero.

But the new government does intend that Mr Milosevic will be tried for the massive theft of state funds that occurred under his rule, and for the campaign of state-sponsored assassinations which marked his final years in power.

The Yugoslav press is full of damaging stories about the profligate ways of the Milosevic clan.

Gun attack

The activities of Marko Milosevic, the former dictator's son, have caused particular resentment in a country where people earn less than $100 a month.

President Vojislav Kostunica
Kostunica has promised a Milosevic trial
But although Mr Milosevic is a spent force politically, the battle with the remnants of his regime continues.

On Sunday, the new head of Serbia's state security organisation, Goran Petrovic, had just gone into a meeting when a gunman wearing a ski mask opened the door of his official car and pumped bullets inside, aiming at the back seat.

The driver of the car, sitting in the front was injured, but clearly the attack was meant for Mr Petrovic.

His meeting was with the new Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, who said they had been discussing new initiatives to fight organised crime - and the shooting had been organised crime's answer to try to block this effort.

In fact, most people believe the shooting was carried out by the old guard in Serbia's state security - those appointed under Mr Milosevic and who have just lost their jobs or fear they are about to.

Belgrade mafia

This doesn't mean that Prime Minister Djindjic is wrong about organised crime being involved - criminal networks and the Serbian secret police were tightly meshed in the old regime.

Criminal gangs helped the police to recruit paramilitary thugs for Kosovo and Bosnia, and to carry out political assassinations both in Serbia and abroad.

The police helped the Belgrade mafia in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband, and turned a blind eye to protection rackets and currency scams - everyone getting rich in the process.

If the old regime's secret police remain in place they could undermine Serbia's new democracy from within; if they are sacked, a bigger and more open mafia will be created.

The new government knows it must crush the old security and crime apparatus - and in this sense the battle with Mr Milosevic is not over.

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19 Sep 00 | Europe
Milosevic: Serbia's strongman
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