PRAGUE, March 13, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Sergei Lavrov did not mince his words today. Russia, he said, was sending its own medical team to The Hague to examine the results of the autopsy on Slobodan Milosevic. It was, he said, a question of trust.
"In the situation when we were not trusted, we also have the right not to believe and not to trust those who are conducting the autopsy," Lavrov said. "We have appealed to the tribunal with a request for our doctors to take part in the autopsy or at least acquaint themselves with its results."
The irritation reflected in those words stems from the refusal last month of the UN war crimes tribunal to grant Milosevic permission to travel to Moscow for medical treatment: "The Russian Federation provided the tribunal with 100 percent state guarantees that after the completion of the treatment Milosevic would return to The Hague. Those guarantees were examined during a special session of the tribunal, which found them insufficient. Essentially they did not believe Russia. This can only disturb us. It can only worry us that Milosevic passed away shortly afterwards."
As fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians, many Russians closely identified with the Serbian cause in the 1990s and strongly opposed the 1999 NATO bombardment of Serbia that hastened Milosevic's fall from power.
The results of the autopsy have revealed that Milosevic died of a heart attack, but doctors are also performing a toxicology report to see if Milosevic may have been poisoned. A Dutch toxicologist said today that he found traces of a drug in Milosevic's blood two weeks ago that could have counteracted the effects of the hypertension medication he was taking.
Dutch authorities said today that Milosevic's remains could be released to his family.
A Milosevic legal adviser today said Milosevic's son, Marko, is seeking permission to travel to The Hague to pick up the body and that the family wanted the funeral to be held in Belgrade.
Slobodan Milosevic in an undated file photo (CTK)
HEART TROUBLES, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: Almost since the beginning of his trial in The Hague in February 2002, Slobodan Milosevic has been complaining of ill health. His trial has been repeatedly delayed as he sought medical treatment. As recently as February 24, the court declined Milosevic's request to travel to Russia for treatment for heart problems and elevated blood pressure, despite pledges from Moscow that Milosevic would be returned to The Hague to continue his trial on 66 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"[My health is] getting worse because of the decision that gives me no chance or adequate time to prepare my defense, and that is pretty clear," Milosevic told the court on July 5, 2004. " Because of that, I think that you have an obligation to give me adequate time."
"[The judges] have been very clear that there is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Milosevic is not fit enough to stand trial," court spokesman Jim Landale told journalists the next day. "They have decided that the time has possibly come for them to assign what is called a 'standby counsel.' That is a lawyer who would work alongside Mr. Milosevic and, were Mr. Milosevic to become ill again, be able to step in and represent his interests in court."
Of related interest:
THE COMPLETE PICTURE: An archive of RFE/RL's coverage of the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Of related interest: