BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Former Yugoslav Gen. Veljko Kadijevic, who was accused of war crimes in Croatia and who fled to Russia to avoid testifying at a U.N. tribunal, has died. He was 88.
Kadijevic — Yugoslavia's last defense minister at the start of the country's bloody breakup — died on Sunday in Moscow, where he had lived since 2001, Serbia's state television said Monday. No cause of death was given.
Kadijevic became defense minister in 1988, shortly before the communist-run ex-federation of Yugoslavia dissolved along ethnic lines, triggering Europe's worst carnage since World War II.
Kadijevic, who was born in Croatia, led the military during the war there. That included the sieges of Vukovar, when the eastern Croatian town was destroyed by Serb-led Yugoslav army troops, and the Adriatic coastal resort of Dubrovnik, which was seriously damaged by shelling, despite being an UNESCO heritage site.
Croatia has accused Kadijevic of war crimes over the Vukovar and Dubrovnik sieges and issued an international arrest warrant. But Kadijevic, who had adopted Russian citizenship, was never handed over to face the charges.
Fearing arrest, Kadijevic fled from Serbia to Russia in 2001, when he was summoned by the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, to testify at one of the trials there. The tribunal never formally indicted Kadijevic.
In his memoires written in Moscow, he said he resigned as army commander in 1992 after former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic demanded from him that the military, known as the Yugoslav Peoples' Army (JNA,) topple political leaderships and take power in the other former Yugoslav republics: Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Slovenia.
Kadijevic also said in his memoires that he had asked if the Soviet Union could help JNA fight separatist rebellions in Croatia and Bosnia, but that then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev "did not want to hear about it."
"Then I knew there was no hope for Yugoslavia," Kadijevic wrote.
AP Correspondent Dusan Stojanovic contributed.