The Dutch Embassy in Moscow today granted a three-day visa to Slobodan Milosevic’s son, Marko, so he can travel to the The Hague to claim his father’s remains, the Netherlands said.
Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Dirk-Jan Vermeij said the application had been granted “with a positive attitude with regard to humanitarian grounds".
Although Belgrade had issued an international arrest warrant against Marko in 2003 for alleged abuse of power, the charges were later dropped.
Vermeij said earlier that as there was no warrant outstanding, “there’s no reason he can’t travel to the Netherlands,” he said.
Within hours of Slobodan Milosevic’s death, his ultranationalist loyalists began laying the groundwork for an elaborate funeral in Belgrade.
Their goal: to show Serbia and the world they’re strong enough to return to power, and prove that the pro-democratic forces who toppled Milosevic in 2000 could be on their way out.
But with the circumstances of the former Serbian leader’s death still not entirely clear, and with conspiracy theories abounding, the potential for mayhem was great.
Tomislav Nikolic, deputy leader of Serbia’s ultranationalist Radicals, today urged Milosevic’s son, Marko, to come to the capital for the funeral, bring his mother along – and fear nothing.
“Let Mirjana Markovic come, and I will bring 100,000 people, and then may someone dare arrest her!” Nikolic said, brimming with bravado and confidence that his party could well win Serbia’s next elections, which are scheduled for late 2007 but could be held before the end of this year.
A court was expected to rule tomorrow whether to lift a criminal arrest warrant pending against Markovic for alleged abuse of power during her late husband’s 13-year reign. She fled to Russia in 2003.
Prosecutors urged the court to lift the warrant – a sign that Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica was working behind the scenes to ensure Milosevic’s closest relatives will be able to attend the funeral.
Milosevic’s Socialists have pressed hard for a funeral in the capital, and on Monday, party leaders threatened to topple Serbia’s minority government if Milosevic is denied state honours and his widow is not allowed to mourn him at home.
The Radicals, meanwhile, have wasted no time trying to capitalise on a growing sense that Serbs have been victimised by the West in general and by the UN war crimes tribunal in particular.
Many Serbians have accused the court in The Hague, Netherlands, of an anti-Serb bias. Milosevic died Saturday at a detention centre while still on trial by the tribunal for atrocities committed by forces under his command in the 1990s.
Shortly after word of Milosevic’s death was announced Saturday, the Radicals issued a statement calling on Serbs to turn out in huge numbers for the eventual funeral and ”show that the villains did not manage to kill Serbia.”
Hours before his death, Milosevic had written an accusatory letter alleging that a “heavy drug” had been found in his bloodstream during a medical exam, suggesting someone was trying to poison him.
Tests on his remains have not offered proof of any poisoning, but news of Milosevic’s letter has left many ordinary Serbs believing he could have been poisoned.
Acknowledging how nationalist fury is building, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic has appealed to the European Union not to push too hard for the arrest of top war crimes fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, saying it could make it difficult for the government to tamp down the rising anger.
“Those who have caused most evil have raised their heads again, expecting to come back (to power),” Draskovic warned.
Serbian President Boris Tadic has refused to allow a state funeral for Milosevic. But that doesn’t seem to trouble his loyalists, who have stopped pushing for full honours. They know they can easily bus in hundreds of thousands of supporters for a private funeral in Belgrade.
After the funeral details are worked out, a burial site will have to be chosen. Many Serbs think a natural resting place would be Pozarevac, the gritty industrial town 30 miles east of Belgrade where Milosevic was born.
The town already serves as a symbol of the strength of the coalition forged between Serbia’s Radicals and Socialists.