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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 March 2006, 15:45 GMT
Milosevic family split over funeral
By Gabriel Partos
BBC South-East Europe analyst

In death former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic appears to have divided his close-knit but at times dysfunctional family.

(Left to right) Slobodan Milosevic, Marija Milosevic, Mirjana Markovic and Marko Milosevic
Family ties may have prompted Milosevic's request to go to Russia
His widow, Mirjana Markovic, and son, Marko, have reportedly said they want the late president to be buried in Russia, where they have been based for several years.

But his daughter Marija has told journalists "he is not a Russian to be buried there".

Instead, Marija, now living in Serbia's partner republic Montenegro, is insisting that her father should be laid to rest in the family's ancestral home, in the small settlement of Lijeva Reka, in Montenegro.

Meanwhile, Mr Milosevic's political disciples in the Socialist Party are calling for their late leader to be buried in the "Avenue of the Great", the area in Belgrade's cemetery set aside for prominent public figures.

But that would require the permission of Serbia's government whose roots go back to the largely peaceful revolution that ousted Mr Milosevic from power in October 2000, after he had refused to accept his defeat in the Yugoslav presidential election.

Authorisation needed

Even if Mr Milosevic's funeral were to be held somewhere else in Serbia, the authorities' intervention would still be required to ensure that his widow and son can return from Moscow without being arrested.

Both Mirjana Markovic and potentially Marko Milosevic are facing criminal charges arising from Mr Milosevic's term in office.

Lawyers in Belgrade say the only way Mirjana Markovic could visit Belgrade without fear of being arrested would involve Serbian President Boris Tadic annulling the legal process against her.

Slobodan Milosevic and Mirjana Markovic
Milosevic's wife Mirjana was his closest adviser
Ms Markovic fled to Russia in 2003 to avoid her trial on charges of misusing state property.

She is alleged to have obtained a state-owned apartment for her grandson's nanny - an offence punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment.

Yet that indictment is nowhere near as grave as the allegations of incitement to murder, about which prosecutors want to question the late president's widow and closest confidante.

Last year, when a court convicted the killers of Serbia's communist-era president, Ivan Stambolic, the judge ruled that they had acted on orders from Mr Milosevic, who feared that Mr Stambolic might re-emerge as a rival.

The indictment against Mr Milosevic in relation to the Stambolic murder will now be dropped. But prosecutors have long argued that as his life-long political associate, his wife was also to blame for that crime, as well as other political assassinations.

Ms Markovic was, after all, a political force herself through her marriage to Serbia's strongman. In many ways, it would be more accurate to portray the 13-year Milosevic era that ended in 2000 as being presided over by the presidential couple.

'Serbia's Lady Macbeth'

Ms Markovic had many roles. She was a professor of sociology, a media commentator and the leader of a small, but influential party, the Yugoslav United Left, which was in coalition with Mr Milosevic's governing Socialists.

But her key role was as the president's most trusted adviser.

Marija and Marko Milosevic
Milosevic's daughter lives in Montenegro, his son in Russia
Mr Milosevic used to consult his wife on virtually all matters of any importance. He would talk to her by phone sometimes as often as 10 or a dozen times a day.

Ms Markovic's high-profile role earned her a number of unflattering nick-names among the growing band of Milosevic opponents.

To many she was known as the "Red Witch" because of her neo-communist rhetoric.

Others referred to her as "Serbia's Lady Macbeth" on account of her encouraging her husband - sometimes even in public - to deal decisively with his political opponents.

By contrast, Marko has always been a political lightweight.

A businessman and playboy, he has been in trouble with the law for his alleged beating up of a pro-democracy demonstrator in Pozarevac, the family birthplace and fiefdom during the final phase of his father's rule.

When his father was ousted from power, Marko moved to Moscow, where his paternal uncle Borislav had long been based, first as ambassador and later as a business executive.

His mother joined him to avoid trial at home.

But since the Serb authorities issued an arrest warrant against her, she has not been able to visit her husband in the detention centre of The Hague tribunal.

Mr Milosevic's recent unsuccessful application to be allowed to go to Russia for medical treatment may well have been influenced by his desire to see his family.

Among his closest family the only one outside Russia is Marija, who has herself faced Serbian charges of firing shots from a handgun at officials who negotiated Mr Milosevic's surrender in 2001.

Marija's links with Serbia may also be severed if her new home, Montenegro, votes to end its union with Serbia in an independence referendum set for May.

If the arguments over the venue of the funeral are not swiftly resolved, it may be difficult for all members of the Milosevic family to attend.





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