At the trial of his former superior Ratko Mladic, General Manojlo Milovanovic said that the two of them had been ‘two bodies, one soul’. The two met, worked together and became friends in the former JNA and then went on to become closest associates at the top of the VRS. They drove together through the war in BH at the ‘speed of a tank’. After the war, one of them ended up in the dock, the other in the witness stand

Manojlo Milovanovic, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialManojlo Milovanovic, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

At the beginning of his testimony at the trial of Ratko Mladic, former chief of the VRS Main Staff Manojlo Milovanovic said that they were ‘two bodies, one soul’. Once, at a meeting Milovanovic asked Mladic ‘how come that you chose me as your deputy’. ‘I start the engine in the first gear, you in the third. As a tank officer, you know that the second gear is the best’, Mladic replied. Mladic laughed from the dock at Milovanovic’s words and applauded in approval.

Milovanovic testifies at the trial of Ratko Mladic because he had has been issued a subpoena, or a binding order, compelling him to appear before the Tribunal. After a few minutes, Milovanovic took an opportunity to stress that there had never been any agreement between him and the OTP that he would not be prosecuted in exchange for his testimony. Replying to the prosecutor, Milovanovic said that before the war Mladic and he had been friends. During the war, their relationship was ‘strictly military’: a ‘relationship based on strict military subordination between the superior and his subordinate’. According to Milovanovic, he was never on a first-name basis with Mladic during the war.

As he answered the questions of prosecutor Dermot Groome, Milovanovic described the circumstances of his transfer from Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina in early May 1992. On 11 May 1992, Mladic ‘briefed’ him about the situation in Crna Rijeka near Han Pijesak. Mladic told Milovanovic that ‘war was unavoidable’, and that the SDS had already distributed the weapons to the people. They had about 85,000 or 90,000 people under arms, who should be organized into corps. This figure did not include the JNA personnel. The JNA was in the process of pulling out of BH; that was the official line.

Milovanovic, Mladic and about a dozen other JNA officers formed the VRS Main staff in the night of 11 May 1992. It officially came into being the next morning, on 12 May 1992, at the session of the Assembly of the Serbian Republic of BH. The Assembly appointed Mladic the commander. Mladic in turn appointed Milovanovic as the Chief of the Main Staff and his deputy, and assigned Milovanovic a place at his desk in the office in Crna Rijeka.

Mladic, Gvero and some other officers, who were the core of the future VRS, attended the Assembly session in Banja Luka. Upon their return, Gvero told Milovanovic that Mladic had warned the deputies that Republika Srpska ‘cannot be cleansed so that only Serbs remain in it’. ‘People, it is genocide’, Mladic told the deputies. Mladic’s words were recorded in the minutes from the session, shown in court today by the prosecution.

‘Politicians orchestrate wars, and generals are just there to execute orders’, Milovanovic said today. According to Milovanovic, Radovan Karadzic, Biljana Plavsic, Nikola Koljevic and Momcilo Krajisnik were the ‘four people’ who made all the political and military decisions in Republika Srpska. Their role remained unchanged even after the Supreme Command was established in December 1992. Karadzic never let Mladic become an equal member of the Supreme Command and invited him to the meetings only as an ‘observer’, Milovanovic said.

Manojlo Milovanovic will continue his evidence tomorrow.