Ratko Mladic remained hidden for years, as investigators slowly and methodically drained him of money and supporters—until, when he was caught, the accused war criminal had just $800 and repeatedly demanded his military pension of 140 euros a month, which had been frozen since 2005. The New York Times takes an extensive look at the three-year-long strategy that finally paid off last week, noting that there are still many questions. Most pressing, perhaps, is who protected Mladic; former government officials and religious authorities could have played a role.
Just as rising pressure finally led to Mladic’s capture, some are wondering if pressure on the Serbian government is what finally prompted it to act. The international war crimes prosecutor was about to formally label the investigation as failing, which could have put Serbia’s potential European Union membership in jeopardy; a top EU official had recently visited; and parliamentary elections are being held next year. Others wonder if Mladic’s peaceful surrender signals that a deal was made, but it could be that the once burly general had simply become so frail that he needed more medical attention than he could get as a fugitive. When first approached by law enforcement, he reportedly said, “Congratulations, I’m the one you’ve been looking for.”