Prague, 28 December 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Security officials in Serbia say Ratko Mladic may recently have been in Russia and is now possibly hiding somewhere in Serbia.
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Serbia's war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, said on 24 December that Serbian authorities have identified a number of Mladic's supporters who are believed to be helping him evade arrest. "As a war crimes prosecutor, I have information about the people aiding war crime fugitives," Vukcevic said. "The Serbian Security Information Agency and the Interior Ministry are also in possession of this information."
"Finally, it has come -- the day of revenge against the Turks."
However, on 27 December, Serbia's Interior Ministry denied that police know who is helping Mladic and other war crimes fugitives. Interior Minister Dragan Jocic told a parliamentary national security committee that Mladic and Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic could be hiding in Serbia. If so, he said, their whereabouts are unknown to police.
On the same day, though, Serbia and Montenegro's human rights minister, Rasim Ljajic, told the state-run news agency Tanjug that there are indications "some active military officials" were or still are in contact with Mladic. Ljajic said the hunt for Mladic is seeking "to narrow his room to maneuver and remain in hiding."
A spokesperson in the prosecutor's office at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) refused on 28 December to comment on the media reports.
Mladic In War And On The Run
Mladic has been on the run since being indicted on charges of genocide and other war crimes by the ICTY. The charges against Mladic relate to his role in the siege of Sarajevo during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and for allegedly orchestrating the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. It was Europe's worst massacre since World War II.
Mladic marked the capture of Srebrenica with the words: "Finally, it has come -- the day of revenge against the Turks."
Serbia has been under growing international pressure to capture Mladic and Karadzic. Defense Minister Zoran Stankovic said ICTY told Belgrade in November that it risks "excommunication" from the international community unless Mladic and Karadzic are turned over. The pressure increased further following the arrest on 7 December of Croatia's top war crimes suspect, General Ante Gotovina.
Police in Serbia are quoted as saying they recently intercepted a cell phone call made by Mladic, the same technique used to locate Gotovina.
The UN's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, said on 15 December that a "dysfunctional" international system has allowed Mladic, Karadzic, and other indicated war criminals to remain fugitives. She urged the European Union and the United States to increase pressure on local governments to hand over the remaining fugitives and to make cooperation in this issue a precondition of accession to NATO and the European Union.