Allies of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic prepared to put his body on display yesterday as they attempt to drum up a huge public show of respect ahead of his weekend funeral.
Hundreds of loyalists joined an emotionally charged reception when his body was flown back to Belgrade airport on Wednesday, weeping and throwing flowers on the cortege.
Officials in his Socialist Party (SPS) said it would be displayed yesterday and today at Belgrade's communist-era Revolution Museum so that people could pay their respects before tomorrow's funeral in his home town of Pozarevac.
Revered by some as a great Serb, reviled by others as a bloodthirsty ruler, the former president died last Saturday of a heart attack while on trial at a UN court in The Hague for war crimes. He was 64.
Milorad Vucelic, a senior SPS official, said the coffin would go on display from noon yesterday to noon tomorrow "so all citizens can pay their respects to the president."
The museum lies a few blocks from the residence where Milosevic was arrested in 2001.
Tomorrow the funeral cortege will be given a send-off from the front of the federal parliament and head to Pozarevac, around 70km southeast of Belgrade.
There, according to a family source quoted by Serbia's RTS television, his body will be laid to rest under a century-old linden tree in the back yard of his old home.
Milosevic, who was being judged for some of the worst war crimes since World War II, has been refused a state funeral by Serbian authorities because of his past but retains loyal supporters.
Hundreds of people chanted his name, wept or threw red roses as his coffin was levered out of the plane, draped with a Serbian flag and driven to a city hospital morgue.
"Slobo! Slobo!", they sang. "Slobo rise up! Slobodan hero!" others shouted, in what seemed as much a welcome home after four years on trial abroad as a last farewell.
Outside the airport the crowd swelled to hundreds. Inside the terminal one woman bore a placard saying, "Heroes do not die, they go into history."
As the van inched its way out people tried to touch it, or threw roses and other flowers.
Vucelic said he expects the whole Milosevic family to return for the funeral. If so, the mourners would include his widow Mira Markovic, also widely believed to have been living in Russia, after a Belgrade court this week revoked a warrant for her arrest.
Analysts say that by allowing the funeral, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is saving his fragile coalition, which relies on the SPS for votes, from collapse.
But victims of the Milosevic regime are furious.
"There are thousands of people who have lost their relatives in the wars... who have fled the country, who have lost their dignity," said Sreten Petrovic, a court clerk who lost his job in 1996 because of his views on Milosevic.
"And now they are talking about a `dignified' funeral. For whom? For the man who has never visited a mother who lost her child in the war, who ordered the beatings and murders of his opponents?," he said.
Moscow despatched four doctors to The Hague to examine the autopsy results because of swirling rumors over the circumstances of Milosevic's death.
The Russian doctors said on Wednesday that they "totally agreed" with the official conclusions of a heart attack.
A Dutch toxicologist who examined Milosevic's blood alleged on Monday that he deliberately took a drug in order to neutralize heart medication in an attempt be sent to Moscow for treatment.