Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Mira Markovic: the power behind the throne?
Mrs Markovic votes in the 1997 elections, Mr Milosevic looks on
By Phil Rees, reporter for BBC television's Correspondent
Sloba and Mira's tragic youth
The ruling couple is known to friends and foe alike as Sloba and Mira, the diminutives of Slobodan and Mirjana. Their names translate as Freedom and Peace.
Tragedy was to inflict Milosevic's youth. An uncle who had regularly visited his home blew his brains out with a shotgun. When Sloba was 21, his estranged father who lived in Montenegro, was to commit suicide in similar fashion. When Sloba was in his early thirties, his mother hanged herself from a light fitting in the family home.
Mira's youth is also stained in blood. Her mother was a Partisan fighter who was captured by the Nazis in 1942. Under torture, she apparently gave away secrets. One account suggests that after her release, her own father - Mira's grandfather - ordered the execution of his daughter for treachery.
'Mira's in charge'
The former head of Belgrade TV, Dusan Mitevic was a close companion of the family for nearly twenty years. "Mira has become a great leader. Over the last decade his real influence has decreased and Mira's influence has increased." According to Mitevic, when it comes to the "main political and personnel questions, she's in charge".
The remarkable thing about her role as first lady of Yugoslavia is her propensity to burst into tears while discussing affairs of state. Mitevic is convinced Mira is unstable. "She draws into herself, becomes passive but harbours great aggression" he says. He describes her as "a drawing room Communist", an ideologue whose mind is "far from reality".
What few in the West seemed concerned about is that the couple would use the crisis to shore up their political power at home by destroying dissent and closing down the opposition media.
In recent months, Slavko Curuvija had become a prominent critic of Sloba and Mira. Last year, he wrote an open letter to Milosevic asking him to resign as President of Yugoslavia. After war began, he was accused of supporting the Nato air strikes. A week later he was gunned down as he entered the driveway of his home.
His row with Mira last October, after several years of friendship, was bitter. That was the last time he saw her. Probably no one will conclusively find out who ordered the killing. But many will suspect.