THE HAGUE (AFP) - Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic Friday faced down war crimes court judges at a first appearance, calling the charges against him "obnoxious" and said he was "simply defending his country." "I am General Ratko Mladic," the markedly thinner, older, yet still defiant former military leader told the Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague. Mladic, 69, faces 11 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war. "I do not fear any journalists or any nation or any country, I defended my country and my people, I now defend Ratko Mladic before you," he told judges before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He called charges against him "obnoxious" and told the court he was "gravely ill." "I would like to read and receive these obnoxious charges against me," the man known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" said following his arrest last week after 16 years on the run. Better known from media images as a stocky commander in combat fatigues, Mladic appeared before a panel of three judges in a grey suit and gold and black tie, and brandishing a sky-blue cap. "I defended my people and my country," the ex-general, charged with Europe's worst atrocities since World War II, insisted from the dock. "I did not kill Croats as Croats," Mladic added after saluting the judges with his left hand. He said he was "a gravely ill man" and needed more time to study the "monstrous words" in the indictment before entering a plea. But he insisted he did not need help to move around after court guards offered to take his arm and guide him to the dock. "I don't want to be taken by the arm like I am a blind man. I can walk by myself." Widows and mothers of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys that forms the crux of the genocide charges, followed the proceedings live on television in Bosnia. "I hope God makes him burn in hell," hissed one woman, seated among the gravestones of victims buried at the Potocari memorial centre. Presiding judge Alphons Orie read the charge sheet as Mladic listened impassively. "Ratko Mladic and others formed the objective to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by killing the men and boys and forcibly removing the women, young children and some elderly men," the judge said. A few metres away in the public gallery, relatives of victims battled to contain their emotion, shouting "Butcher Monster" at the sound-proof window separating them from Mladic. Orie set July 4 as the date for the next appearance, by when Mladic will be required to enter pleas to the charges against him. If he fails to do so, an automatic not-guilty plea will be entered on his behalf. Accused of committing atrocities during Bosnia's 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people, Mladic was arrested in northeast Serbia last Thursday. He is accused of masterminding the Srebrenica massacre -- Europe's worst mass killing since World War II -- and the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 died. He was flown to the Netherlands on Tuesday to stand trial before the ICTY after Serbian judges denied his appeal on health grounds and found him fit to stand trial. On Thursday Mladic's lawyer Milos Saljic had said that Europe's most wanted man was treated for cancer two years ago while evading arrest. The ex-general had also suffered three strokes and two heart attacks, he claimed. But court spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic told journalists Friday: "At the moment, there is no indication that his health status as such will impact the trial". The trial is not expected to start for months, and should last several years. Mladic's one-time mentor, Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, died in The Hague four years into his own genocide trial in 2006, of a heart attack. And his former political chief, Radovan Karadzic, has been conducting his own defence in a war crimes trial that started in October 2009. Like his former ally, Mladic faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. In the unlikely event that he pleads guilty, there will be no trial and a date will be set for sentencing.