Mladic's Arrest Rankles Serbia Yet Offers Opportunity

Originally published on May 29, 2011 11:42 am
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NPR's Sylvia Poggioli joins us from Belgrade. Hi, Sylvia.


HANSEN: Is Mladic resisting extradition to The Hague?

POGGIOLI: When Mladic appeared before a judge after his arrest, he was talkative and bossy. He says he doesn't recognize the war crimes tribunal's authority and said I never killed anyone. He asked for strawberries and novels by the Russian writer Tolstoy. He also wanted to visit the tomb of his daughter, Anna, who committed suicide during the war with her father's own gun. It was said then she couldn't bear what her father was doing. But the visit was denied.

HANSEN: Have any more details emerged about how his arrest came about?

POGGIOLI: When captured, Mladic was living in a cousin's farmhouse in a small village north of Belgrade. He was apparently broke, living in shabby, dirty conditions. He had two guns with him but he did not resist the arrest.

HANSEN: Now, how are Serbs reacting?

POGGIOLI: And I have a chilling memory of him in May 1993. The Bosnian-Serb assembly was about to approve the peace plan drawn up by the U.S. and British diplomat Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen. Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was also there pressing for approval. Suddenly, Mladic stormed into the room and rolled out giant maps of Bosnia covered with small crosses. In a fiery speech, he said, wherever a Serb is buried, that is Serbian land. So, the plan was speedily rejected and that prolonged the war for more than two years and it ended with the massacre of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica under Mladic's command.

HANSEN: The process of international justice at The Hague has been very slow. Milosevic's trial was underway for five years when he died. What's going to happen with Mladic's trial?

POGGIOLI: And now, Liane, I know this is your last day and I want to wish you all the best. And I want to express my appreciation for the attention you and your program always showed for international news and for this Balkan saga in particular. When I was covering the start of the breakup of Yugoslavia, it was you and Wi Sun(ph) that first showed curiosity for events that were really too distant and too complicated for most of the media. I want to thank you because you helped us explain and put the focus on this very tragic story.

HANSEN: Oh, thank you for that, Sylvia. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli speaking to us from Belgrade. Thanks again.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Liane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.