Slobodan Milosevic was laid to rest Saturday beneath a tree at the family
estate in his hometown, a quiet end for a man blamed for ethnic wars that killed
250,000 people in one of the turbulent Balkans' bloodiest chapters.
The late Serbian
leader's burial, a week after his death while on U.N. trial charged with
genocide and crimes against humanity, followed an emotional farewell in Belgrade
that drew at least 80,000 Serb nationalists and another in his birthplace
attended by up to 20,000 admirers.
Jelena Tmusic wears a Serbian uniform as she kisses the grave of former
Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic during the funeral in his hometown of
Pozarevac, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Belgrade, Saturday,
March 18, 2006. [AP]
As a cold drizzle fell, his flag-draped coffin was lowered into a double
grave with a place for his widow, Mirjana Markovic, who reportedly wants to join
him when she dies.
The grave, marked with a simple marble slab inscribed with both of their
names in Cyrillic letters and the dates 1941-2006, was dug beneath a favorite
linden tree where the couple first kissed as high school sweethearts.
No immediate members of Milosevic's family attended.
But in a letter read at graveside, Markovic, who lives in self-imposed exile
in Moscow because she faces Serbian charges of abuse of power during her
husband's 13-year reign, said: "You lost your life while fighting for noble
causes. You were killed by villains. But I know you will live forever for all
who wish to live like human beings."
A letter from the couple's son, Marko Milosevic, expressed hope that the late
president's death would "sober up the humiliated Serb people."
"To die for one's country means to live forever," his letter said.
No priest officiated at the interment because Milosevic was an avowed
Among the supporters in Pozarevac were several indicted war crimes suspects
on temporary leave from the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. One,
retired Gen. Dragoljub Ojdanic, wore his military uniform.
After the burial, residents of the gritty industrial town 30 miles south of
the capital waited in a long line to view the grave, which was framed by a
crimson carpet and brass stands holding red velvet ropes.
People had lined the town's main street to welcome the arrival of Milosevic's
remains, cheering and waving as a brass band played a funeral march. Many threw
red roses, the symbol of the Socialist Party.
Earlier in Belgrade, Milosevic supporters packed a square in front of the
federal parliament to pay their respects. Many were bused in by his Socialist
Party from Serb areas in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
People wept and chanted "Slobo! Slobo!" at the sight of the flag-draped
coffin on a bier atop a red-carpeted stage. Some clutched photographs of
Milosevic or the U.N. court's two most-wanted fugitives: Bosnian Serb leader
Radovan Karadzic and his wartime military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic.
Serbian authorities refused to approve an official ceremony, but Saturday's
farewell ¡ª organized by the Socialists and technically private ¡ª had some of the
trappings of a state funeral.