Thu, Mar 16, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Milosevic returned to Belgrade

HOME AT LAST The corpse of the man held responsible for the violent break-up of Yugoslavia came home yesterday. He is to be buried in his hometown this weekend


The coffin carrying the body of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic arrived in Belgrade yesterday afternoon, where a memorial ceremony was to be held ahead of a weekend burial in Pozarevac, the town east of the Serbian capital where he had been born.

As the man held responsible for the violent break-up of Yugoslavia moved to his last resting place, renewed controversy erupted over the medical treatment he received during the final months of his life.

Russian doctors, who on Tuesday viewed the video of an autopsy conducted by a Dutch forensic expert, said his treatment for a heart complaint had been inadequate, and the Russian Duma called for an international investigation.

The head of the Russian medical team, cardiologist Leo Bokeria, agreed with the preliminary conclusion of the autopsy that Milosevic had died of a heart attack, but he was scornful of the treatment he had received.

"Unfortunately it is banal, utterly banal. A patient who was not treated has died. That is all there is to say," Bokeria said, according to a report by the Russian Itar-Tass news agency.

"A gross mistake was made," said the director of the Bakulyev Research Centre of Cardio-Vascular Surgery in Moscow and one of a team of doctors observing Milosevic since 2003.

"Milosevic could have been cured with the help of a surgical operation. Such operations are performed in many countries now," Bokeria said.

He remarked that there were two places on an artery where coronary stents -- devices used to repair weak spots -- could have been inserted.

"Then he could have lived for years," Bokeria said.

And he expressed strong criticism of the Dutch medical authorities who were responsible for Milosevic's treatment as a prisoner in the UN detention centre near The Hague.

"How could this happen in a country, which, no doubt, has a first-class public health system?" he queried.

Just two weeks before his death the UN war crimes tribunal denied Milosevic's request to travel to Moscow for treatment by Bokeria and his team.

The judges acceded to the prosecution's argument that the accused might not return to see out his trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

There was also no word on when a toxicological report would be published that would help clear up reports that Milosevic had been taking an antibiotic that could have counteracted the medication he was receiving for his high blood pressure.

Following the autopsy on Sunday, which was observed by Serbian doctors, a Dutch toxologist said he had found rifampicine in Milosevic's blood earlier this year.

Donald Uges of the University of Groningen said he suspected Milosevic was deliberately taking the rifampicine to make it seem that he was not receiving proper treatment and to back up his demand to be allowed to travel to Moscow for treatment.

In Belgrade, Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) said he would be buried on Saturday in Pozarevac, 80km east of Belgrade.

Miomir Ilic, a local SPS official, said that the Milosevic family wanted him buried in Pozarevac because "no adequate grave site" had been provided in Belgrade by the authorities.

Milosevic's coffin would be transported to the morgue of the Military Academy Clinic from the airport and lie in state at Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) headquarters Thursday and Friday, he said.

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