Moscow urges fair Hague trial for Mladić

MOSCOW -- Russia expects that the trial of ex-military leader of Serbs in Bosnia, Ratko Mladić, will be just and impartial, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Russia expects that the judicial proceedings against Mladić will be fair and impartial, the ministry's Ombudsman for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov told Interfax.

An official from the Press and Information Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry voiced expectation that the Mladić proceedings will not be used for artificially extending the date when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is scheduled to close its doors, RIA Novosti reported.

Late on Thursday, Chairman of the International Relations Committee of the Duma Konstantin Kosachov said that Russia could not refrain from welcoming the arrest, but that Moscow intends to demand that a fair trial be conducted at the Hague Tribunal.

The news, this official said, caused mixed feelings.

"We can't not welcome the fact he was located and that a man accused of terrible crimes will face the court. On the other hand, there are certain doubts that this court will be completely unbiased and just," he noted.

"Sadly, the Hague Tribunal's previous practices have shown that it operated subjectively, that it tried primarily persons who took part in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia on the Serb side," Kosachov continued.

He also quoted statistics that showed the Hague Tribunal's verdicts were handed down to Serbs in 96.8 percent of all cases. At the same time, the Russian official noted, that war crimes court saw several odd acquittals of persons who represented other sides in the conflicts.

The court, said Kosachov, has been "curiously passive" when it comes to such crimes as human organ trafficking in Kosovo - atrocities believed to be perpetrated by ethnic Albanians.

"Moscow will certainly monitor the Mladić case at the court, and insist on a truly objective court process. Russia should not be an advocate in this situation, but it should insist on a just and fair trial," he continued.

He believes that those in power in Serbia will "suddenly activate attempts to speed up Serbia's EU entry", but added that they "stand to experience certain disappointments" in that process.

"Now the situation gets interesting, because the main obstacle to Serbia joining the EU has been removed," said Kosachov, adding, however, that there was "reason to believe that was just an excuse" - because the union is "facing difficulties in its development".

Mikhail Marelov, chairman of a counterpart committee of Russia's upper house of parliament, the Council of the Federation, also commented on the news out of Serbia to state that "it's hard to say whether Mladić was elusive the whole time".

He noted that the arrest came during a G8 summit in France, adding that the moment was convenient for Serbia to demonstrate its fidelity toward the Hague Tribunal and the EU.

Russia's Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin believes that the tribunal's justice can be considered only when enemies of Serbs, and NATO - which attacked Serbia in 1999 - also face justice for the killings they committed.

Even stronger statements were heard from a former top official of the Russian Defense Ministry, now an advocate of radical anti-Western positions.

Leonid Ivashov considers Ratko Mladić a hero, and says his extradition to the Hague Tribunal would be a mistake.

"Mladić is a hero of the civil war, which saw elements of meddling from the outside factor. He protected his people as best he could. Extraditing Mladić (to the Hague) would be an act of national betrayal," Ivashov was quoted as saying.

The retired Russian general also believes that such a move would lead to further divisions among Serbs, and increased tensions.

"Serbs will show that they have finally been broken, that they truly act on the orders of Brussels and Washington," concluded Ivashov.