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Alleged Mladic footage angers Belgrade


Latest update : 2009-06-11

A Bosnian network showed fresh footage of top war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic apparently enjoying himself at family outings, including to a ski resort possibly in 2008. Serbia says the footage is meant to undermine its EU bid.

Reuters - A Bosnian television station has shown what it says are recent pictures of Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic playing with his family in the snow, a move Serbia said was meant to undermine its EU bid.

The video footage, aired late on Wednesday on Sarajevo TV, showed Mladic walking with a stick and joking with his wife and daughter in law, who threw snowballs at him on a mountainside.

Shown alongside older footage of Mladic in Belgrade, the television said the mountainside video was likely taken last year but did not say where it was filmed. A Serbian official said the pictures were all at least eight years old.

Mladic, the commander of Bosnian Serb forces in the 1992-95 Bosnia war, was charged with genocide in 1995 by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for his role in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims.

Belgrade says he is out of reach of its forces, but his arrest is a key condition for Serbia's progress towards membership of the European Union.

Serbia's point man for cooperation with the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Rasim Ljajic said the programme had a political aim.

Monday talks

EU foreign ministers are expected discuss Serbia's progress in cooperation with the tribunal on Monday.

"It is obvious that someone thought it was necessary to minimize positive assessment about Serbia's cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal by Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz," he said.

"It is obvious that some within the international community don't have the best intentions for Serbia."

The Bosnian programme '60 Minutes' described what it said was Mladic's relatively free life over the past ten years in Serbia and the Serb-run part of Bosnia.

Mladic was shown visiting local cafes and restaurants and living normally in a house in Belgrade neighbourhood of Kosutnjak, as well as attending his son's wedding and celebrating the birth of a granddaughter.

"The material that was shown last night was seized in Mladic's house in December 2008 and handed to the Hague Tribunal in March this year," Ljajic said.

"Not a single shot is less than eight years old."

Serbia had hoped last year's arrest of Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic would boost its EU case, but the 27-nation bloc said Mladic also must be arrested.

The country intensified its efforts to arrest Mladic last year, investigating his financial support network and inspecting possible hide outs, in the hope of winning visa free status with European Union member states.

"European Union membership is our strategic goal and we will continue with our efforts despite difficulties we are facing," Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremeic said in Brussels on Thursday.

Olga Kavran, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office in The Hague, said the prosecution had seen some of the footage prior to Wednesday's broadcast, but declined to comment further.

"We believe that a discussion of the details carries a danger of jeopardising the search for Mladic and would not be in anyone's interest," Kavran said.

Date created : 2009-06-11