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Reports: Widow of Serbia strongman Milosevic dies in Russia

Mirjana Markovic, the leader of the Yugoslav Left Alliance and wife of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, gestures at a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on Dec. 15, 2000. Serbia's state television said that Mirjana Markovic, the widow of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, has died in Russia. She was 76, it was reported Sunday, April 14, 2019.

DARKO VOJINOVIC/AP

By JOVANA GEC | Associated Press | Published: April 14, 2019

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s state television said that Mirjana Markovic, the widow of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic who was considered a power behind the scene of his autocratic rule, died in Russia on Saturday. She was 76.

The RTS report said Markovic died Sunday in a hospital. Milosevic’s SPS party sent condolences to the family.

There were no officials details about the cause of death, but Serbian media said she died of pneumonia after several recent surgeries.

Markovic was the leader of a neo-Communist party during Milosevic’s rule in Serbia in the 1990s, a coalition partner with a major influence on her husband.

She fled Serbia in 2003 after Milosevic was ousted from power in a popular revolt and was handed over to the U.N. court in The Hague, Netherlands, where he faced a genocide trial for his role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. He died in jail there in 2006 before a verdict.

After Milosevic was ousted from power in a popular revolt in 2000, Markovic was sought for questioning over the killing of Milosevic’s political opponents during his autocratic rule in the 1990s. In 2005, Serbian authorities asked for her extradition, but Moscow refused, saying she had been granted political asylum.

Though she was never charged formally, it was widely suspected that Markovic played a role in the assassination in 1999 of prominent Belgrade newspaper editor Slavko Curuvija, who was gunned down during the NATO bombing of Serbia. Markovic had accused him publicly of supporting the military alliance attacks.

A Serbian court recently convicted four former state security members of the murder but without saying who ordered it.

Pro-democracy authorities that took over after Milosevic’s ouster also have linked Markovic to the disappearance in 2000 of Milosevic’s former mentor and friend, Ivan Stambolic, whose remains were found in an unmarked pit in northern Serbia in 2003.

Markovic fled Serbia together with her son, Marko, who reportedly made a fortune in murky business and smuggling during his father’s rule when Serbia was placed under international isolation for launching land-grabbing wars in neighboring countries after the former Yugoslavia broke up.

Markovic was known for her “diaries” published in local newspapers that often predicted future political moves and events. The former Serbian first lady’s notes were written in a poetic, flowery style that contrasted with her ruthless behavior toward her husband’s political opponents.

A Serbian appeals court recently overturned a one-year prison sentence for Markovic and ordered a retrial for abuse of position in 2000 for helping allocate a state-owned apartment to her grandson’s nanny.

After his death in The Hague court custody, Milosevic was buried in the yard of her family home in the central Serbian town of Pozarevac. She was in Moscow and did not attend, fearing arrest by the pro-democracy authorities then in power.

The Socialist Party published a statement of condolence on Sunday by the party leader Ivica Dacic, who is Serbia’s foreign minister.

Dacic offered help to the family after Markovic’s death, saying, “I respected her as the wife of Slobodan Milosevic and as a scientist.”

Markovic had worked a professor of sociology at the University of Belgrade.

Markovic is survived by her son and a daughter.

Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this report.

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