Reuters. 2 February 2002. Milosevic Said to Give Banned Prison

MOSCOW -- Slobodan Milosevic has given a secret interview to a Russian
news agency which was smuggled out of his jail cell in The Hague using
high-tech spy methods, the Moscow newspaper Izvestia said on its Web
site on Saturday.

But associates in Belgrade of the former Yugoslav president challenged
the authenticity of the report, which quoted him denying war crimes
charges and saying God had spoken to him and promised that his efforts
would one day be recognized.

A duty editor at Itar-Tass news agency stood by the interview, which he
said had been made available only to some of Tass's subscribers. He said
it was conducted in answer to written questions from its Rome
correspondent, Oleg Osipov.

But Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia issued a statement flatly
denying that the interview had occurred.

"Slobodan Milosevic did not give any kind of Itar-Tass
agency or...any other journalists." The SPS said the reports were
intended to damage its leader.

Milosevic's Belgrade lawyers Zdenko Tomanovic and Dragoslav Ognjanovic
also denied that their client had given such an interview, B92 radio

"When we saw parts of the alleged interview with Itar-Tass, it was clear
to us that those were not Milosevic's words. We talked to him and he did
not give any kind of interview," Tomanovic told the radio.

A spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal, where Milosevic
goes on trial this month told Reuters the 60-year-old remand prisoner
had been warned after a previous incident last year that he could lose
privileges if he spoke to the media.

He did not know whether he had given any further interview.

In his answers as they appeared on the Web site,
Milosevic complained of a lack of access to the media and said he was
transmitting his answers using James Bond-style gadgets  -- "methods
used by Agent 007...tiny microchips."

There was little in the comments that the former president had not said
before, although some Belgrade observers said parts of the report
sounded unlike him.

He said he wanted to clear his name as a loyal Serb before his people
rather than in the U.N. tribunal and denied ordering massacres in Kosovo
in 1999.

"I intend to defend myself not before the court but before the people by
stressing that Kosovo is Serbian territory," Milosevic was quoted as
saying on the Izvestia Web site.

"Orders are being attributed to me that I never gave and were the result
of individual initiatives by the military. They acted independently to
defend themselves from attacks by bandit groups who were burning homes
and killing innocent people."

In another bizarre twist, the Izvestia Web site said the press service
of leading Kosovo Albanian politician Ibrahim Rugova, who long opposed
Milosevic, helped set up the interview.

A senior Rugova aide, Skender Hyseni, told Reuters on Saturday: "These
are pure fabrications and lies."

"The minute I try to say anything differing from the court's political
line and aims, I am denied the floor," Milosevic was quoted as saying.
"I therefore decided to find alternative means to tell the truth without
restrictions and I chose the press."

Describing himself as "politically persecuted," he added: ''I am keeping
a diary to leave to my descendants a ray of history born within the
conscience of a true Serb."

He has refused to enter pleas or appoint counsel.

Milosevic complained he was isolated from the outside world and said his
moral and physical state was "somewhere in between inertia and uncertain
hope, not enough to keep my spirits up."

"In this interview I am crying out to the world that I have been
betrayed," the quotes went on, though seasoned observers in Belgrade
said the tone was not at all vintage Milosevic.

"I place my trust in God and not in some illegal political tribunal. God
has already told me that this period in history is a part of the
inevitable human process. My sacrifice will be recognized in many years.
That is my hope and my faith."

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Barry Stoller

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