But few believe in the story, viewing it as a Soviet-style diplomatic hospitalisation. One conspiracy theory is that the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, has sent Gen Mladic to the isolation ward to stop any nonsense about standing up to Nato over the withdrawal of Serb heavy weapons from around Sarajevo.
Oslobodjenje, the Sarajevo daily, yesterday reported without foundation that Gen Mladic was languishing in "diplomatic jail" in Belgrade with three of his top commanders.
Another theory is that the general, unable to stomach the sell-out of western Bosnia but powerless to stop it, has bowed out voluntarily. An alternative scenario is that his troops have been routed and the sick-bed provides an alibi.
The general's last confirmed sighting came last Wednesday, when he and Mr Karadzic met the US envoy, Richard Holbrooke, in Belgrade, to seal their capitulation over the heavy weapons around Sarajevo. Mr Karadzic has also limited his public appearances recently.
Gen Mladic has absented himself in the past when he was reported as being at odds with his political masters. His friends say he is looking forward to retirement, presumably in his Serb statelet if it still exists by that time, as he is wanted in The Hague on war-crimes charges.Reuse content