Arkan 'Surreal Experience' 1996

In a rare interview in English, Serbian warlord Željko Ražnatović, known as "Arkan", is talking to BBC reporter Jim Fish. Max Pearson presenting in the London studio.

Broadcast on World Service Radio, 10 September 1996. In the same week Arkan also wrote an extensive letter to the Editor of London's "Guardian" (14 September 1996), titled "Arkan: I am no war criminal."

This piece includes footage previously used by the film "The Death of Yugoslavia" ("Brian Lapping" for the BBC, 1995) and photos by various photographers, including by Ron Haviv / Saba Gallery.

After a robbery and killing spree across Western Europe in the 1970s and jailbreaks in Belgium, Holland, Sweden... Arkan became untouchable across Yugoslavia. His bravado and good fortune led to the speculation that Arkan was already working for the Yugoslav State Security, the UDBA, and was used in the assassination of several of Tito's Yugoslav opponents abroad.

In the 1980s Arkan was back in Belgrade with high-level connections in the state apparatus, particularly close to the Slovenian Stane Dolanc, a hard-liner and Tito's federal Interior Minister. This system of hiring of convicts into the Yugoslav security service, who were used to assassinate Yugoslav political exiles, is said to have been created earlier by Edvard Kardelj, also Slovenian. Tito's main ideologist, Kardelj had a major influence on the Yugoslav military intelligence service, the KOS. He was behind the granting of safe haven in the country to criminals in exchange for their services. Many of these people , protected even from Interpol, were alleged to have robbed banks, and carried on other criminal activities all over Western Europe. Arkan is said to have begun as Edvard Kardelj's protégé.

During the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, Arkan's "Tigers" answered directly to Serbia's Ministry of Interior. In April 1992 they stormed the Bosnian towns of Bijeljina and Zvornik, securing strategic links between later Serb-held territories in Bosnia with Serbia.

According to the Hague War Crimes Tribunal, an indictment against Arkan was issued in 1997. The warrant was kept sealed and was made public in March 1999, a week after NATO bombing in Yugoslavia started.

On 15 January 2000, Arkan was shot dead, while lounging in a leather chair in the lobby of Belgrade's "Inter Continental" Hotel, together with 2 of his companions. Nearly 7 years later, a court in Serbia convicted 8 men of the murders, one of them an off-duty policeman.

Ron Haviv's photograph of a Serb gunman about to kick a bleeding woman in the head is one of the most striking images to come out of the Balkans in the 1990s.

It was spring 1992 in Bijeljina and Arkan's "Tigers" had just entered the town. Gunmen had just shot two Muslim women and a man. As they lay there dying, taunted by their killers, Ron Haviv was able to take the photo. That he was able to get close enough to take the photo was because of an invitation by Arkan himself.

Arkan was furious when that picture was published and put out a death warrant on Haviv, stating publicly that he looked forward to drinking his blood. But Arkan had personally invited Haviv to photograph what he called the "liberation" of Bijeljina from Muslims...

Haviv remembers: "It was a combination of luck and playing to Arkan's ego. He was a very smart man, fluent in several languages and he thought he had the ability to control his own image. Haviv, a US photo-journalist who chronicled the break-up of Yugoslavia, has won several "World Press" and "Picture of the Year" awards.

More on Arkan in Bijelina and Zvornik:

Paul Wood, BBC News, 'Gangster's life of Serb warlord':