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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Mira Markovic: Balkan 'Lady Macbeth'
Mira Markovic voting, with Milosevic (in background)
Mira Markovic had great influence over her husband's career
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.

The dramatic arrest of Slobodan Milosevic on 1 April brought Mira Markovic's world crashing down.

From being his constant companion, the woman known in Belgrade as the "Red Witch" - Yugoslavia's own Lady Macbeth - had to resort to a daily visit to the city's central jail in order to see her husband.

And now her visa has come through, her visits take her further afield, to Milosevic's new prison in The Hague.

The democratic opposition used to hate Mira Markovic even more than it did her husband. But Predrag Simic, an adviser to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, says she is now regarded as an object of pity.

Mr Simic says Dr Markovic - she has a PhD in sociology - had a "very strange and unfortunate past, typical for the youth of communism". Her "frustrations and phobias" became part of the policy that "made her husband drag this country into the abyss", he says.

Assassinations

The sight of Dr Markovic going daily to the prison was certainly full of pathos, but few are sympathetic.

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.


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

Marija Milosevic
The couple's son Marko is in hiding while his extensive business dealings are investigated.

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

'Personal triumph'

But the former first family still have their supporters.

Thousands protested outside the family's luxury villa on the night the police stormed in.

Among them was Dragana Kuzmanovic, spokeswoman for the Yugoslav United Left, the party which for so long dominated the apex of political life in Belgrade and which Dr Markovic still heads.


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

Dragana Kuzmanovic, Yugoslav United Left
"All this has just made Mira Markovic stronger. She was sad, hurt, betrayed, amazed, but she has won a personal triumph. We should be very proud of the personal relationship between Slobodan Milosevic and Mira Markovic," she says.

"It was special, different. They were literally part of one another. People who don't have that love deep inside reacted against them."

Love songs

In the final days of freedom, the couple reportedly tried to shut out the world by spending long hours listening to their large collection of Russian love songs.

Marko Milosevic
Marko Milosevic: Accused of illegal business deals

They met as childhood sweethearts in the provincial town of Pozarevac. Their 36-year marriage has been an extraordinary personal and political partnership.

Both were lonely children of unhappy families blighted by tragedy.

Both of Mr Milosevic's parents and an uncle committed 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.

'Melodrama'

Dejan Anastasjevic, one of the journalists persecuted by the old regime, describes the couple's fate as "a melodrama more than a tragedy".

Mira Markovic "had an enormous influence, not only over her husband but also over some of the key institutions, including the police", he says.

Like Lady Macbeth, her hands are drenched in blood, according to Mr Anastasjevic, who had to flee the country in fear of the police during Nato's 1999 bombing of Serbia.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all if she was behind some of these murders, or maybe it was her less direct influence. However, I don't think anybody expects that there will be a paper trail, so it will be very difficult to prove in court."

Despite such difficulties, the democratic authorities are focusing their efforts on the possible role Mrs Markovic may have had in the political assassinations which characterised the old regime.

It seems likely that just as they ruled together, so Mrs Markovic and Mr Milosevic may well face justice together.

See also:

13 Apr 01 | Europe
Milosevic back in jail
09 Oct 00 | Europe
Profile: Marko Milosevic
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