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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Izvestia: Milosevic Gave Secret Prison Interview

Slobodan Milosevic has given a secret interview to Itar-Tass that was smuggled out of his jail cell in The Hague using high-tech spy methods, the Izvestia newspaper said on its web site Saturday.

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 his efforts would one day be recognized.

A duty editor at Itar-Tass stood by the interview, which he said had been made available only to some of Tass' 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: "Slobodan Milosevic did not give any kind of interview ... to Itar-Tass agency or ... any other journalists." The SPS said the reports were intended to damage its leader.

A spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal, where Milosevic goes on trial this month, said 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 izvestia.ru 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 fallen strongman 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 UN 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. Yet a senior Rugova aide, Skender Hyseni, said 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, although 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."