Analysis by: Andy Wilcoxson

The International Herald Tribune published a report from the Associated Press today that illustrates the sort of malicious lies and demonization that Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs have been subjected to over the years. Read the AP story and then keep reading to learn what they didn't tell you.

Serbia foils Milosevic ally prison escape attempt
The Associated Press - February 16, 2009

BELGRADE, Serbia: Serbian authorities say they have foiled an attempted prison escape by Slobodan Milosevic's paramilitary commander, a man convicted of killing the former president's political rivals.

Milorad Ulemek, former head of the elite Red Berets unit during the early 1990s wars in Bosnia and Croatia, is serving a double 40-year sentence for the 2003 assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and the killing of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic in 2000.

He apparently planned to flee earlier this month while being transported to the hospital for a checkup, the Justice Ministry said in a statement Monday. Belgrade media reported that Ulemek intentionally increased his blood pressure with drugs.

The authorities said prison guards discovered a plastic replica gun in Ulemek's jail cell that they believe he planned to use during his transport to the hospital. They added they stopped the transfer because of its "extreme risk."

Ulemek, known by his nom de guerre Legija for once serving in the French foreign legion, is the most closely guarded Serb prisoner. He has repeatedly sent messages through the media that he will one day escape from Belgrade's top security Central Prison.

Milosevic was ousted from power in a popular revolt led by Djindjic in 2000. Milosevic is believed to have ordered Stambolic's killing because he planned to run against him in a presidential vote in 2000.

Djindjic was killed after he sent Milosevic to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006 during his war crimes trial.

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Now here’s what the Associated Press and the International Herald Tribune didn’t tell you …

Milorad Ulemek "Legija" was not loyal to Slobodan Milosevic. In fact, he was instrumental in helping Zoran Djindjic overthrow and arrest Milosevic.

Shortly after Milosevic was overthrown the Washington Post reported the following: "Ulemek himself is better known by his assumed wartime name, Legija, or Legion, which he acquired as a result of service in the French Foreign Legion. According to several sources, Ulemek approached Djindjic in the days leading up to the Oct. 5 street demonstrations that finally toppled Milosevic. He promised that he would not allow his troops to be used to break up the street protests, and would oppose any move by the army to crush the demonstrations. Djindjic aides now speak admiringly of Ulemek and his Red Berets as people who can still perform a valuable service to the Yugoslav state."1

In 2001 Legija was in the news again. Out of all the policemen in Serbia, he was the one who led the operation to arrest Milosevic -- a fact that the Associated Press was well aware of when it reported on Milosevic's arrest. The AP coverage read: "Leading the arrest operation and a convoy of four cars that drove Milosevic to Belgrade's drab Central Prison was 'Legija,' - Legion in Serbian - commander of the elite Red Berets."2

If Legija assassinated Djindjic his motive was obviously not some special affinity that he had for Slobodan Milosevic. If Legija had been a Milosevic supporter he would not have helped Djindjic overthrow him and he definitely would not have led the operation to arrest him. That much should be clear to even the most dimwitted individual.

The AP’s allegation that Milosevic "ordered Stambolic's killing because he planned to run against him in a presidential vote in 2000" is absolute fiction. First of all, Stambolic had no political ambitions. When he disappeared his wife Kaca ruled out a political motive saying, "He had no enemies; he did not want to go back to politics."3

Secondly, Stambolic disappeared on August 25, 2000. According to his family, he went jogging on the 25th and never came back.4 The deadline to register as a candidate for the elections was August 24th.5 Even if Stambolic had wanted to run, he would not have been able to because the deadline had already expired. The idea that Milosevic would have had Stambolic killed to prevent him from running in an election that he couldn't have run in anyway is stupid on its face.

Slobodan Milosevic had no motive to kill Stambolic and he had nothing to hide. On October 17, 2003 Milosevic wrote a letter from his prison cell in The Hague demanding that the tape recordings and transcripts from his interrogation with the Serbian police regarding the Stambolic case be made public, of course none of his accusers had the guts to do that.6

Another "minor detail" that the AP got wrong is the fact that the "Red Berets" that Legija commanded in Serbia were different from the "Red Berets" that fought in Croatia and Bosnia. The unit that fought in Croatia and Bosnia was a totally different unit commanded by Dragan Vasiljkovic. The only thing Legija and Vasiljkovic had in common was the desire to overthrow Milosevic, but maybe I'm expecting too much of our intrepid fourth estate. The goal of media outlets like the International Herald Tribune and the Associated Press is to propagandize and turn public opinion against Milosevic and the Serbs -- and that means lying to their readers. Maybe I'm naive, but I think journalists ought to check their facts and tell the truth. Unfortunately, that is not a common opinion among Western journalists reporting form the Balkans.


1 - Michael Dobbs, "In Yugoslavia, a Revolution in Limbo; As New Alliance Squabbles, Milosevic Loyalists Retain Powerful Posts," The Washington Post, November 11, 2000

2 - Dusan Stojanovic, "Mayhem Ruled Before Milosevic Arrest An AP News Analysis," Associated Press Online, April 1, 2001

3 - "Mystery As Milosevic Mentor Vanishes," The Scotsman, August 26, 2000

4 - "Former Serbian president vanishes," Associated Press Worldstream, August 25, 2000

5 - "Serbia: deadline for federal elections candidate lists ends midnight 24th August," BBC Monitoring Europe (Political), August 24, 2000; SOURCE: Beta news agency, Belgrade, in English 0829 gmt 24 Aug 00

6 - Read the full text of Milosevic’s letter at: