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Mira Markovic, the widow of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, has died in Russia at the age of 76.

Her death was confirmed to the BBC by a close family friend, Milutin Mrkonjic.

Known as the “Lady Macbeth of the Balkans”, Ms Markovic was a significant political figure during the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

She was one of her husband’s most trusted and influential advisers before he was arrested in 2001 but fled to Russia two years later.

Mr Milosevic died in 2006 while being held at the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands. He had been charged with genocide and other war crimes for his key role in the 1990s wars that tore the Balkans apart.

The couple met as teenagers in secondary school in 1958 and friends recalled how the couple quickly became very close. They were married for four decades and were almost inseparable until Milosevic’s extradition.

While Ms Markovic owed her political influence to being his closest confidante, she also had her own political party, the neo-communist Yugoslav United Left (JUL).

Prior to meeting her husband, Ms Markovic had a tormented childhood.

Her mother was a Partisan fighter who was captured by the Nazis in 1942.

Under torture, she apparently gave away secrets. One account suggests that after her release, her own father – Ms Markovic’s grandfather – ordered the execution of his daughter for treachery.

In 2003, Ms Markovic fled Serbia, where she was charged with abuse of power and was suspected of cigarette smuggling and political assassination.

Russia granted both her and her son, Marko Milosevic, political asylum in 2008 after Serbia issued an international arrest warrant for them in connection with alleged cigarette smuggling.