The Milosevic family 'sells up' in Serbia to be nearer father

A source close to the family told The Independent: "The long separation has been very hard for all of them." But friends of the family say the eventual move to the Netherlands by the family would be at the prompting of Mr Milosevic, who has privately complained of loneliness.

Mr Milosevic, 64, and his wife Mira Markovic, 63, are high school sweethearts and have been married for more than four decades. The couple own five large houses in Serbia, two in the Dedinje neighbourhood of Belgrade and three in their home town of Pozarevac, 70 miles east of the capital.

The Belgrade residences alone are estimated to be worth at least €3m (£2m), and the homes at Pozarevac are valued at a total of €1.2m. The family paid a total of €6,000 for them in the 1990s, when Mr Milosevic's power in Serbia was absolute. The source said that most if not all are about to be put on the market.

All the buildings are marble decorated, with heated floors, large gardens and extensive video surveillance equipment. Mr Milosevic's son, Marko, still lives in one of the Pozarevac homes with his wife Milica, 30, and their son Marko, aged six. But none of the rest of the Milosevic family now live in Serbia.

Ms Markovic left in 2003 for Russia, to join Marko who fled the country only days after Mr Milosevic fell from power in October 2000. The couple's daughter Marija, 40, sold all her flats in Belgrade years ago and lives in Montenegro.

The news of the property sale has infuriated Serbs, who were already irritated by the state prosecutors' decision to drop charges against Marko, who was accused of harassing political opponents of his father, threatening one with a chainsaw. A few months ago, financial corruption charges were also suddenly dropped against Ms Markovic. Both have now been taken off the list of international arrest warrants and can travel to Holland.

The dropping of charges was seen as a clear political deal between the Socialist party Mr Milosevic once led, and the conservative minority government of Vojislav Kostunica, which remains in power thanks to the votes of Socialist MPs. That move now appears to have been a prelude to the final abandonment of Serbia by the Milosevic family.

A Vienna-based media watchdog has expressed concern about remarks made by Velimir Ilic, a Serbian minister, at a press conference after Marko was cleared. He reportedly told a journalist she and her colleagues at a Belgrade television station were sick and needed psychiatric treatment. His media adviser also threatened to kill the reporter's boss, the watchdog said.

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