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 Monday, 11 February, 2002, 14:20 GMT
Milosevic allies still at large
Slobodan Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, with Mr Sainovic, in 1997
Mr Sainovic (right) "pulled the strings" in Kosovo
By the BBC's Paul Anderson

There are four other men indicted with Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kosovo. But of them, there is only one name on everyone's lips in Serbia - Nikola Sainovic.

Bodies in Racak
Mr Sainovic has been linked to Racak massacre
During the period of the charges in the indictment, Mr Sainovic was Yugoslav deputy prime minister - a back room job for a master of backroom dealings.

He'd been Mr Milosevic's chief negotiator in Bosnia and was his special envoy in Kosovo.

"Of all the others indicted with Mr Milosevic, he would be the gem for the tribunal," says the commentator Dushka Anastasjevic.

Kosovo co-accused
Milan Milutinovic, Serbian President
Nikola Sainovic, former Yugoslav deputy prime minister
Vlajko Stojiljkovic, former Serbian Interior Minister
Dragoljub Ojdanic, former army chief of staff
"He was the main person in Kosovo from the outset of the crisis, pulling strings, engaged in secret negotiations and masterminding strategies in terms of security troops."

"Even the Serbian public doesn't know he played such a role. He looked clumsy, not very flamboyant, but he does know a lot and was one of Milosevic's closest associates."

Orders to 'go in heavy'

Mr Sainovic has been linked to the event which spurred the international community into action in Kosovo - the massacre of 45 Albanians in the village of Racak in January 1995.

Vlajko Stojiljkovic
Stojiljkovic: Implacably opposed to the tribunal
In a tapped telephone conversation Mr Sainovic told General Lukic to "go in heavy" in Racak, which was one of places harbouring fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The investigative journalist Miroslav Filipovic says Nikola Sainovic was one of the few men who made Mr Milosevic's system of discreet command work.

Orders to the head of the police in Kosovo at the time of the conflict, Sreten Lukic, were passed from Mr Milosevic via Mr Sainovic, he says. For a president who trusted the police more than the army, that connection was vital.

Pressure from the Hague

Mr Sainovic is a deputy in the Federal Parliament and as such he enjoys immunity from prosecution.

We don't want to make 10 million people hostage to a few people, and they cannot expect our protection

Zoran Djindjic, Serbian Prime Minister

But for Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian Prime Minister, that's a constitutional nicety which may have to be overlooked. He's under tremendous western pressure to surrender the war crimes suspects living in Yugoslavia soon.

Asked whether he would be prepared to move on Mr Sainovic and the others as he did with Mr Milosevic, Mr Djindjic told the BBC: "If necessary, Yes. We don't want to make 10 million people hostage to a few people, and they cannot expect our protection.

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic
Milutinovic: Safe as long as he remains president
"Our main goal is to be accepted in Europe and the democratic world and we will do what is necessary to keep this position. It is not easy. It is painful, but necessary."

Mr Sainovic's lawyer, Toma Fila, said Mr Sainovic had worked to establish peace in Kosovo. He'd brought the Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, to Belgrade for talks with Slobodan Milosevic, even though a deal was never implemented.

Mr Fila said his client would willingly accept trial for the charges he's accused of - but in Yugoslavia.

Refusal to testify

Former police chief, Dragoljub Ojdanic
Former police chief, Dragoljub Ojdanic
Of the other three, Vlajko Stojiljkovic, the former Interior Minister, is the most implacably opposed to the Hague. Like his former boss, Mr Stojiljkovic refuses to recognise the war crimes tribunal, saying he would only testify in Mr Milosevic's defence.

The other men on the charge sheet are the retired army chief of staff, Dragoljub Ojdanic, and Milan Milutinovic, the former Yugoslav Foreign Minister and current serving Serbian President.

Reports say that Mr Milutinovic has said he may testify against Mr Milosevic. But that would come at a price. His term runs out towards the end of this year, after which Mr Milutinovic will be stripped of the privileges and protection he currently enjoys as president.

Mr Djindjic has said he will not be surrendered while he is president. Of the four, only Mr Milutinovic has any real current political value. As president, he is the only one who can call new elections.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"Milosevic has all the home comforts he could require"
  The BBC's Jon Silverman
"The future course of international justice rests on this trial"
  The BBC's Alan Little
"Even from his prison cell, Milosevic can still pull a crowd"

At The Hague

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08 Feb 02 | Europe
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