Borislav Milosevic: Diplomat who defended his brother Slobodan

He condemned his brother's arrest by the UN for alleged war crimes as 'kidnapping'

Borislav Milosevic was a Yugoslav diplomat who served in Algeria, Japan and latterly Russia in the late 1990s. He will be best remembered, however, as the elder brother of the uncompromising former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, whose nationalist policies and interests Borislav defended until Slobodan's death in a prison cell in The Hague in 2006.

Borislav Milosevic was born in 1934 in the ancient town of Niksic, Montenegro, well-known as a centre of the Orthodox Church. It was then part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. At the beginning of the Second World War, the family moved to the Serb town of Pozarevac – a city that had been ruled by the Turks and the Habsburgs, and which became part of the new state of Yugoslavia in 1918. After the Nazi invasion of 1941 it was allocated to the German-controlled puppet state of Serbia. It was there that Borislav's famous brother, Slobodan, was born in 1941. Although the majority of the townspeople were Serbs, there were sizeable minorities of Roma, Montenegrins, Croatians and others. Borislav's childhood surroundings, therefore, gave him much to think about regarding identity.

For the Milosevic family, like almost everyone in Yugoslavia, the war years were a constant struggle for the basic necessities. Hunger, disease, and violent death were daily occurrences, even in areas like Pozarevac, as the Germans conducted a ruthless occupation policy. There was also a civil war between the royalist Chetniks, the Croatian fascist Ustashi and the pro-German Bosnian Muslims – all of whom were against Tito's partisans.

Pozarevac was liberated in 1944 by the Soviet Army and the partisans. It became part of the republic of Serbia in Tito's Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Communist rulers attempted to purge the land of the supporters of the previous regimes. Poverty, hunger, and disease continued to stalk the land after the war, although the Milosevic brothers were luckier than some of their contemporaries who died of starvation or disease. The casualties would have been higher had it not been for UN assistance.

Milosevic's family came from Montenegrin stock that traced its roots back to the time of the 1389 battle of Kosovo Polje, where the Ottoman Turks crushed the medieval Serbian empire. His father graduated from the Orthodox seminary in the ancient Montenegrin capital of Cetinje and worked before the Second World War as a professor of Russian at the Theological Academy of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade. His mother, known as a very attractive woman, was a school teacher who became an active member of the Communist party. His parents separated and, tragically, both committed suicide – in 1962 and 1972 respectively.

Slobodan and Borislav followed their mother into Tito's League of Yugoslav Communists. After years of pro-Soviet propaganda, all three had had to face the shock of the Tito-Stalin break of 1948. Perhaps Boris and his mother were hit much harder than brother Slobodan, who was only seven at the time. The Stalin-Tito split brought a purge of the pro-Moscow elements. The Milosevic family remained firmly in the Tito camp.

After studying law in Belgrade, Borislav Milosevic was active in the international section of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, and in the 1970s he started his diplomatic career in Russia. He was highly trusted by President Tito, whom he accompanied on many foreign visits. During Tito's sensitive talks with the then leader of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, he acted as interpreter. After Tito's death in 1980 he continued his diplomatic career, serving as Yugoslav ambassador to Algeria, Japan and then, from 1998, Russia. He lost this position when Slobodan was ousted from the presidency in 2000. He remained in Moscow, heading an oil-trading company and acting as a consultant. A critic of the Western policies toward Serbia, he advocated stronger ties with Russia instead.

Borislav was a supporter of his brother's policies, and a strong critic of the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which tried Slobodan on genocide charges arising from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. When Slobodan was handed over to the court in 2001 by the Belgrade government, Borislav condemned the arrest as "kidnapping" and claimed that the Hague tribunal was illegal. He also accused the UN court of being responsible for the death of his brother, who suffered a heart attack in his cell in 2006.

When Slobodan's widow, Mirjana, and her son, Marko, faced criminal charges over alleged wrongdoings during the former president's era, Borislav helped them settle in Moscow, where they were granted refugee status.

Borislav Milosevic, diplomat: born Niksic, Yugoslavia 1934; married firstly, secondly Milanka (one son); died Belgrade 29 January 2013.