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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
What next for Mira Markovic?
Mira in front of poster advertising amusement park part owned by her son
Mira Markovic may also face arrest
With former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic behind bars, the BBC's Paul Wood asks what will become of his wife, Mira Markovic, and the former First Family.

For years Mira Markovic was known as the "Red Witch" - a nickname reflecting her position as head of the Yugoslav United Left party, and her behind-the-scenes influence on her husband, Slobodan Milosevic.

There was no woman in the history of Serbia who had such a huge influence on state issues as Mira Markovic

Slavoljub Djukic
With Mr Milosevic now Yugoslavia's most famous prisoner, attention is switching to what might happen to his wife, who visits him daily at Belgrade's central jail, and his children, Marko and Marija.

The Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, has said the former president's wife may have had a hand in some of the political assassinations that blighted Yugoslavia towards the end of the old regime.

She too might end up in jail, he says.

Marko is in hiding while his extensive business dealings are investigated.

Marija too could face charges after she fired several bullets at the government official sent to negotiate her father's surrender.

Unhappy childhoods

Dr Markovic (she has a PhD in sociology) and Milosevic have been married for 36 years - an extraordinary personal and political partnership which began when they were childhood sweethearts in the provincial town of Pozarevac.

Holding a gun in one hand and a baby in the other is a little complicated and awkward

Marija Milosevic
They were both lonely children of unhappy families blighted by tragedy.

Mr Milosevic had seen both parents and an uncle commit suicide.

Dr Markovic grew up knowing her mother, a famous partisan, had been executed by the Gestapo amid allegations - never proven - that she betrayed her comrades under torture.

Her father, a senior Communist party official, barely acknowledged her.

"There was no woman in the history of Serbia who had such a huge influence on state issues as Mira Markovic," said author Slavoljub Djukic, who has written four influential books about the couple.

"She cleared a path for his career and finally destroyed it like a praying mantis."

Landmark flower

Dr Markovic usually appeared in public dressed in black with a large flower in her hair, an accessory which became her trademark.

It was a special, different kind of relationship - they were literally a part of one another

United Left Party spokeswoman, Dragana Kuzmanovic
She was sensitive to ridicule.

One of the unofficial landmarks in Belgrade is a large plastic cow with a flower behind its ear, advertising a local diary.

But the flower had an uncanny resemblance to those worn by Dr Markovic and it was removed on official orders.

During the years that Mr Milosevic exercised power, his wife's weekly magazine column - called "Night and Day" - would be intensively scrutinised.

There would be hints about changes in government policy and which official might be promoted or sacked, along with excruciating references to the couple's children, Marko and Marija.

Milosevic children

Marko "likes to play with his cars, just like when he was a child", she wrote of a son who had written off more than a dozen luxury sports cars in high speed crashes - always escaping prosecution by the police.

There was less about Marija, never thought to be as close to her mother as Marko.

But Marija, speaking for herself, recently declared that she would not marry again because: "Holding a gun in one hand and a baby in the other is a little complicated and awkward."

Dr Markovic remains head of the United Left party.

Its spokeswoman, Dragana Kuzmanovic, told the BBC that she was "sad, hurt, betrayed, amazed, but even stronger now".

The party's official spokeswoman added: "We should be very proud of the personal relationship between Slobodan Milosevic and Mira Markovic.

"It was a special, different kind of relationship - they were literally a part of one another."

It seems likely that just as they ruled together - so they may well face justice together.

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