Balkan TV mogul claims he’s been poisoned

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The Balkans’ biggest TV mogul announced Thursday that he has been intentionally poisoned, and Serbian police said they are investigating the claim.

The 44-year-old Zeljko Mitrovic, a former ally of late Serbian autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic, has been hospitalized in Germany for four weeks. Earlier he was hospitalized in Belgrade for some time, sparking intense speculation about what was wrong with his health.

On Thursday, his TV Pink station, the biggest in the Balkans, gave some answers. It reported that arsenic, lead and benzene had been found in Mitrovic’s blood by the hospital near Hamburg and said he suffers from aplastic anemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t produce enough new blood cells.

The station and the mogul said he has been poisoned for a protracted period, but did not elaborate on when or where it happened — or who they suspect did it.

“I suspect everyone, except my wife and children,” Mitrovic told Belgrade B-92 radio, adding that “someone had poured” poisonous substances into his food and drink.

There was no immediate comment from either hospital.

Serbian media compared the Mitrovic allegations to the 2006 poisoning death in London of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Mitrovic also said he would fire several people from his company once he returns to Belgrade, and rejected claims by the nationalist Vecernje Novosti newspaper that his Slovenian Pink TV branch was in financial trouble.

Mitrovic has expanded his TV empire in former Yugoslavia with programs that mostly air so-called turbo-folk music, a popular modern version of Balkan folk music.