PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Momir Bulatovic, who was the president of Montenegro during the turbulent breakup of the former Yugoslavia, died Sunday at age 62, a close associate said.
Bulatovic died at his family’s home near the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, Milan Knezevic told The Associated Press. Knezevic, a longtime associate of the former president, said Bolatovic apparently had a heart attack.
Bulatovic served as Montenegro’s president from 1990 until 1998. He was an ally of then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who is widely seen as the main instigator of the ethnic wars that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslav federation.
Bulatovic was a founder of Montenegro’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists along with the country’s long-serving leader, Milo Djukanovic. But the two split when Djukanovic turned away from Milosevic to eventually lead Montenegro to independence in 2006.
In the early 1990s, Montenegro sided with Serbia in the ethnic wars that tore the former Yugoslavia apart. During the 1992-95 Croatian war, Montenegrin troops participated in the Yugoslav army’s shelling of the ancient Adriatic walled city of Dubrovnik, drawing international condemnation.
Following the split with Djukanovic, Bulatovic remained staunchly pro-Serb and in 1998 assumed the post of the prime minister of then-Yugoslavia, which at the time included only Serbia and Montenegro after other nations split away.
Bulatovic recently took part in protests by the pro-Serb opposition in Montenegro against the country’s 2017 membership in NATO.
Knezevic, an opposition politician, said Bulatovic “left a permanent trace in the Montenegrin politics as a man who fought for his beliefs until the last day.”
In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic expressed condolences to Bulatovic’s family, saying he will be remembered for “consistently pursuing the policy of union between Serbia and Montenegro.”