B92: If we cite the significance of the democratic
principles of justice, truth and morality as well
as everything the civilised world has cited in recent
years, then Clinton’s departing administration must
surely accept responsibility for the appearance
of the so-called Balkan syndrome which has, over
the past few days, become one of the main subjects
for discussion throughout the world, particularly
in those countries which have deployed their soldiers
on the territory of the former Yugoslavia over the
past ten years.
There has until now been no detailed research
into the pollution caused by depleted uranium in
Yugoslavia. Hence, competent bodies say that it
is impossible to confirm to what extent we are really
at risk. They do, however all maintain one thing,
hat real and potential dangers do exist. While American
and NATO representatives claim that the effects
of depleted uranium are of no major concern, KFOR
soldiers are dying of leukemia. That is the reason
why those countries which led a modern war against
Yugoslavia should, if nothing else, at least ask
themselves how many human lives they put at risk
through the use of radioactive ammunition.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has issued a statement
to the effect that in March 2000 the American Army
Center for Health and Preventative Medicine took
samples from those places hit by missiles in the
American sector in Kosovo confirming that there
are no traces of depleted uranium in this area.
It has also been stated that NATO planes fired 31,000
missiles containing depleted uranium during the
bombing of Kosovo and 10,000 during the war in Bosnia.
According to this statement, depleted uranium was
not used because of its radioactivity, which is
lower that that of natural uranium, but because
of its ability to penetrate all known types of casings
thanks to the exceptional density of this metal.
NATO data and that gathered by the Yugoslav
Army regarding the number of missiles containing
depleted uranium used on Yugoslavia differs by 20,000.
Head of the Atomic-Biochemical Defence Department
Colonel Milan Zaric gave B92 the following data.
Zaric: According to our figures, during
the aggression NATO forces fired 50,000 projectiles
containing depleted uranium from guns on H10 planes.
In addition to the 112 locations claimed to have
been hit by this ammunition, we have proof that
a further 5 regions have been contaminated outside
the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, four in Serbia
and one in Montenegro. In Serbia those regions are
in the area around Presevo, Bujanovac and Vranje,
and in Montenegro on the Lustica peninsular. All
these regions have been marked, the majority of
them fenced off and along with the cleansing of
the contaminated soil, all those considered to be
at risk from depleted uranium contamination have
undergone medical examinations.
B92: Snezena Milacic from Dr. Dragomir Karajovic,
Belgrade’s institute for radiological protection
asserts that there has been no increase in radioactivity
in Belgrade and the surrounding area.
Milacic: According to our measurements,
we can reliably claim that in Belgrade and the surrounding
area in the majority of points which were hit there
has been no increased radioactivity. As regards
Belgrade, all results show the same levels of radioactivity
as prior to the war, so there is no fear of any
direct effects on the health of Belgrade’s citizens.
B92: We asked NATO spokesman Mark Layton why
NATO used weapons containing depleted uranium when
its use is banned by certain international laws.
Layton: Let’s firstly clear up one thing
here. The use of depleted uranium has not been banned
by international law. There is no ban on the use
of depleted uranium and it is a totally legal arm.
Some armies in certain countries do not use depleted
uranium because of national reasons, but it is not
banned. That is a perfectly simple matter. Depleted
uranium is used for specific purposes and numerous
military forces use it mainly because of its specific
weight and hardness. Its penetrative power is consequently
great. Ordinary metals cannot penetrate the casings
of modern tanks and that is why some armies including
the American Army use it for that purpose. Hence,
it is a legal anti-tank weapon. Any health risks
have been proved by medical research to be small.
There are two possible problems here. The first
is radioactive poisoning and the levels of radioactive
radiation from depleted uranium are exceptionally
low, lower than natural uranium which is found in
soil. It is, therefore, very difficult to contract
radioactive poisoning. The second health risk which
is more serious but also small is the risk from
the toxic dust given off by this substance which
is very similar to that of lead poisoning. That
can cause kidney disorders, but I must repeat that
large quantities of this dust would be required
in order for people to become ill because of it.
So, although there are potential risks, these risks
are very small since the possibility of the human
organism being exposed to such quantities of dust
is indeed very small. Independent medical experts
are in agreement on this matter.
B92: However, everyone, apart from NATO agrees
that depleted uranium is radioactive and its use
is therefore banned. Zoran Stankovic, head of pathology
at Belgrade’s Military Medical Academy had the following
comment to make.
Stankovic: This weapon was banned by the
United Nations Human Rights sub commission for the
prevention, discrimination and protection of minorities
in 1996 and 1997. In February 1980 the New York
state ruled to ban a factory from producing penetrators
which were used to produce this ammunition since
the level of radioactivity of those particles released
into the atmosphere every month was equivalent to
387 grammes of depleted uranium. One single shell
used to bomb us contains approximately 300 grammes
of uranium. If we have accepted as a fact that 31,000
such missiles were thrown on our country, then we
can see how great the effects of that depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is a byproduct in the preparation
of fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.
The term depleted originates in the fact that the
residue of uranium after the refining of fission
fuel contains fewer isotopes marked as U235, i.e.
fission fuel, than in natural uranium. Developed
countries have large problems with that since they
have large quantities of it. For example, the US
has 500,000 tons of depleted uranium which means
that this quantity has to be hidden somewhere, the
citizens have to be protected from it by whatever
means possible and since they do not have any other
way to do that, they use it in making these weapons
thus spreading it around the world, but not on their
B92: The possibility that missiles such as the
Tomahawk, which also contain certain quantities
of depleted uranium, were used to hit targets in
Belgrade and other towns presents a very real danger.
We asked Colonel Zaric if this was in fact the case.
Zaric: It is true that there is data to
support the fact that cruise missiles contain certain
quantities of depleted uranium and according to
this data, that varies between 11 and 20 kilos.
We do have access to such data and have estimated
that it is possible that during the aggression,
our country was also shelled by such weapons. Because
of this all locations where NATO forces shelled
by cruise or other missiles have been examined,
radiological research has been carried out and we
have no proof of the presence of depleted uranium
in any of these locations. In other words, there
has been no increase in radioactivity in these locations.
At the same time, we remain concerned and the process
of research in these areas continues in the hope
that we will become absolutely certain that there
is no contamination.
B92: Milan Orlic from the Vinca Institute for
Nuclear Science warns of the extreme difficulties
in confirming and measuring where and in what quantities
depleted uranium is found.
Orlic: The question has been asked as to
where do we go from here. Firstly, can it be measured,
how can it be measured and how and whether the effects
on people can be estimated. The questions are very
delicate ones. The problem lies in the very nature
of depleted uranium itself. As a radioactive substance
it emits alpha, beta and gamma radiation. But gamma
radiation which is the easiest to detect is a low
energy form so if anybody wishes to find an area
where depleted uranium is present, there must be
considerable residues of it present or even a whole
piece intact. This is what it looks like. There
is the firing pin, or the large piece, then the
instrument has to be brought closer up to a distance
of less that half a meter, or even better to ten
centimeters in order for the instrument to react
at all. Thus prospecting the territory is very difficult
indeed, we have to be very direct here. Secondly,
measuring in laboratories, there are a large number
of methods of measurement, nuclear and non-nuclear,
but in order to obtain valid results, the sample
should be taken from the point of entry or very
nearby. If we go ten meters or a hundred meters
away, it is practically impossible to measure and
ascertain whether depleted uranium was present.
Taking measurements is in fact very complicated
and unless it is done systematically, it cannot
achieve results, except in the case when direct
samples are taken and used. And there have been
such cases. What happens during the firing of the
missile? When it enters the ground, the firing pin
goes down several meters, maybe ten but at least
several meters underground and it is very difficult
to find and determine its whereabouts. If it has
hit a hard target such as a tank or a rock, then
there may be various effects. Firstly it might be
broken and have dispersed into small particles.
Part of the pin might have burned and small particles,
aerosols, smaller and bigger, with dimensions of
under and above 2,5 microns will have appeared.
Such particles, firstly the larger ones fall close
by, the aerosols burn, blown away by the wind and
they travel enormous distances, but in the places
which were targeted, practically a hundred meters
away in the direction of the wind, it is impossible
to find out whether something which was burned or
which landed on the ground can be measured in the
way I mentioned here. So it is very, very difficult
to measure something like that.
These particles can enter the respiratory organs
and deposit themselves in the lungs, the kidneys,
the brain, the bones and other organs. These particles
can cause contamination, they can cover or damage
the surrounding area and are able to spread depending
on the meteorological conditions to up to 40 kms
from the place the ammunition first landed. Uranium
does not dissolve well in water and bodily fluids,
but uranium oxide dissolves better, so this oxide
which dissolves during explosion will in time contaminate
subterraneous water and through the vegetation used
to feed animals will contaminate animals and people
in a specific way. This ammunition presents a danger
to people since in the case of injury it destroys
tissue and causes contamination. The effects of
depleted uranium on the organism are threefold.
Firstly through radiation, to harm people’s health
by means of radiation; they can be toxic because
through the inhalation of this substance, these
particles, toxic damage occurs to the organs they
reach either through inhalation or filtration through
the blood, i.e. through the urogenital system, and
thirdly there are chemical effects on the organism.
Various illnesses can be caused by the effects of
depleted uranium, illnesses such as skin disorders,
kidney damage, damage to the arteries, the central
nervous system and other organs. Inhalation most
often causes damage to the respiratory tract and
organs such as the lungs because they are retained
here after the first assault and afterwards when
the blood is filtered through the kidneys, these
particles of depleted uranium, i.e. uranium oxide
are retained in the kidney tissue leading to cancer
of the kidneys, urinary tract and bladder.
People can be exposed to radiation and the effects
can be estimated, but they can be such that they
increase the risk of certain forms of cancer with
effects which may only appear ten years later. People
may be exposed to radiation where the object was
targeted and in the immediate vicinity of the target.
I mean within ten meters of the target. The concentration
in the atmosphere is very high for a short time
depending on the wind and meteorological conditions,
if somebody was there at that time and inhaled such
air then they could suffer from very serious hemotoxic
effects. If we are talking about a distance of up
to a hundred meters then the effects of hemotoxisity
are significantly less as are the effects of radiotoxisity.
This could be shown through measurement tests in
certain hospitals so as to see whether it is present
in the bodily contents and in what quantities. It
would be difficult to measure in some central zone,
somewhere outside this hundred-meter limit. If there
are such effects, then they are very slight and
it would be difficult to compare them with the other
effects of radiation. If someone then moved about
on such contaminated soil some hundred meters around
the place where the missile landed, the majority
of the particles land on the ground, then it might
come to some so-called resuspension, i.e. some of
the particles could rise into the air again and
be inhaled. Even in such circumstances it would
be very rare for someone to suffer from any serious
effects with regard to radiotoxisity or hemotoxisity.
If the target is missed, for example the missile
enters the earth, then there are no direct effects,
however, perhaps through time, through water, the
ammunition may interact, say a piece of depleted
uranium interacts with the water, then migration
could take place. All that must be followed closely,
research must be carried out so as to see whether
there are any water currents on such territory.
B92: Colonel Zaric maintains that the Yugoslav
Army has taken all appropriate measures and that
all those who may directly or indirectly have been
exposed to the effects of depleted uranium have
undergone medical examinations.
Zaric: So far more than 1,000 members of
the Yugoslav Army who at the time missiles containing
depleted uranium were used were on endangered territory
have been examined. We have not found contamination
from depleted uranium in anyone. At the same time,
dealing with the effects of depleted uranium is
an on going process and in accordance with that
and considering the NATO figures we recently received
outlining which locations both in and outside Kosovo
such weapons containing depleted uranium were used,
the process of radiological research of some locations,
firstly in the south of Serbia, is now being carried
out. I have to say more precisely that those figures
were not given to the Yugoslav Army nor to the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia. During the aggression NATO
denied the use of ammunition containing depleted
uranium. At the end of 1999, the United Nations
general secretary demanded that NATO release figures
regarding the use of this ammunition. At the beginning
of 2000, the UN general secretary released general
figures regarding the use of this ammunition and
finally, at the end of September last year, NATO
released figures that this ammunition was used on
112 locations on Yugoslavian territory. It can be
concluded that NATO released those figures mostly
under pressure from the international public and
not in response to Yugoslav demands and of course,
not with the aim of helping Yugoslavia to deal with
the effects caused by depleted uranium.
B92: We asked the NATO spokesman to comment
on the latest initiative that the international
community, primarily the member countries of the
Alliance, meet the costs of the clearance of the
effects caused by the use of depleted uranium on
Layton: The United Nations environmental
programme has carried out some research in Kosovo.
Considering the fact that new people are in power
in Serbia, there is the possibility that further
research will now be carried out on Serbian territory,
that is in the area of southern Serbia. However,
this question will be left for some future time
and is yet to be resolved. At the moment, though,
we do not believe that there is any need for NATO’s
participation in this clearance. As I have already
said, the health risks are marginal and as long
as there is no evidence to the contrary, NATO remains
convinced of having done the right thing, no matter
what kind of weapons were used in the region.
B92: Gordana Brun, from the Serbian Ministry
for the Protection of the Environment explains that
it has so far been impossible to give a legal, expert
and detailed analysis of the effects of depleted
uranium for various reasons.
Brun: At the time of the NATO aggression,
when it all happened, it was certainly not possible
to do all the usual things which should have been
done in such circumstances. As a result, when the
report about the ecological consequences of the
NATO aggression was completed, a team was organised
within the United Nations whose task it was to establish
the truth about what really happened in this region.
The UN official presiding over this group maintains
that what suffered the most in this war is the truth.
He also said that as a United Nations official,
he was not able to obtain data from NATO headquarters
about how much, when and where had this ammunition
actually arrived. They obviously knew it but were
concealing the facts. And that is the reason why
the fuss which is currently been made in the international
public about what really happened in Kosovo, is
an extremely positive development for our country
since the above mentioned United Nations report
does exist as does the official report made by the
Yugoslavian State. The two vary very little as far
as the facts are concerned, however, there are certainly
differences in the interpretation of these two reports.
Those who compiled this report on behalf of the
United Nations would like to hush up certain facts
and refuse to admit that an ecological catastrophe
did actually occur. In other words, what they are
saying is that some facts have not yet been discovered,
although they know that the consequences are very
serious. However, for those of us interested in
the protection of the environment, for those of
us who will have to deal with these effects, it
is of the utmost importance that some admission
of responsibility is made in order to undertake
the appropriate measures outlined in the above mentioned
report. The report clearly states that the cleansing
of the terrain on which the ammunition landed should
be a priority. This terrain must be cleared in an
appropriate and professional manner because what
we are especially worried about is depleted uranium
entering the food chain, reaching people through
vegetation and animals. The consequences are long-term
and they are well known from the Gulf War. I would
also like to remind you of the book published in
New York containing facts about the victims of the
Gulf War with obvious consequences. The same can
be said about the Republic of Srpska since we know
that depleted uranium was also used in this region.
We are primarily concerned about genetic mutations,
most probably related to cancer because depleted
uranium can remain in the ground for up to a thousand
B92: The story about the serious health risks
caused by ammunition containing depleted uranium
gained wide publicity only after the Gulf War in
1991. One of the American veterans suffering from
health problems as a result of the war, American
Dug Rocky, presented his view of this problem to
Rocky: During the Gulf War, I worked as
a physicist in a team in charge of equipment identification
collection and clearance, as well as the removal
of victims contaminated by uranium. The team was
engaged immediately after the ground intervention
when it was realised that the necessary cautionary
measures had not been taken and that nobody knew
how to operate the ammunition fired during the Gulf
War. The first thing we need to be aware of is that
so-called depleted uranium is not depleted at all.
It is pure 238 uranium and it emits alpha rays.
When they penetrate an organism, they cause serious
tissue and cell damage by means of ionisation. It
should be emphasised that the ammunition bullets
are not filled with depleted uranium, nor are they
covered by it; they consist totally of that material.
The members of the team experienced serious respiratory
problems at the very beginning of the equipment
clearance which manifested themselves as strong
asthmatic fits occurring after only a few hours
or days. Some members of the team have died of cancer
since then, mostly from cancer of the chest and
respiratory organs. There are also records of digestive
tract diseases, kidney disorder, as well as rashes
appearing immediately following contacts with the
contaminated material. Some of my colleagues and
I have been suffering from these rashes for 10 years.
Throughout 1994 and 1995, I was departmental head
for the depleted uranium project at the American
Ministry of Defence. As part of the project, I was
in charge of establishing procedures for clearing
up areas contaminated by depleted uranium and formulating
instructions for the cautionary measures related
to these procedures. After this had been done, the
material was left for inspection by the American
Government and the British Ministry of Defence a
few years ago. Since that time they have repeatedly
refused to take appropriate measures for the clearance
of contaminated areas in Iraq and Saudi Arabia,
Puerto Rico and on US territory in the states of
Nevada, Maryland and Indiana. If even after ten
years, they haven’t shown any interest in the American
soldiers affected by these diseases, or in the Iraqi
soldiers and the people of Viekas in Puerto Rico,
then I honestly doubt that they will be willing
to offer any kind of medical support to anyone in
the Balkans. They do not want to have anything to
do with this. They simply refuse to accept any link
between depleted uranium and health problems.
Depleted uranium was used during the intervention
in the Balkans as early as 1994 and 1995 in Bosnia.
At the beginning of 1999, during their preparations
for the intervention in Kosovo, the American Army
carried out an experimental firing of ammunition
containing depleted uranium on the Puerto Rican
island of Viekas. Today, over a year later, the
people inhabiting these areas are suffering from
serious health problems, while the Puerto Rican
government continues to make demands that Washington
assist in clearing up the polluted terrain and offer
medical support to the people affected by these
illnesses. Along with three of my physicist colleagues,
I was invited to a meeting with the members of President
Clinton’s supervisory board on April 16, 1999. These
are the people who report directly to the US president.
On that occasion, we again warned them of the disastrous
effects of depleted uranium and we particularly
demanded that it should not be used in the Balkans.
The representatives of the American Ministry of
Defence present at the meeting promised it would
not be used. Only a year after this meeting, it
is clear that while they were making these promises
to us they were actually doing the opposite. One
American Army representative even said that it did
not really matter if ammunition containing uranium
was scattered everywhere since the ground itself
was full of uranium anyway. As far as the use of
depleted uranium in missiles such as the "tomahawk"
is concerned, controversy still exists. It is true
that this material can also be used as a ballast
in missiles, but it is not possible to establish
this precisely. The only way would be to investigate
the affected positions using special detectors.
These detectors must be able to recognise both alpha
and beta rays. As far as I know, the American Ministry
of Defence only possesses 50 of these special devices.
I personally tested some of them in 1994 and 1995.
A standard detector cannot recognise those rays.
I am aware that some American and English scientists
have investigated the places hit by these missiles
and that they have discovered contamination, as
is cited in their reports. This data is still being
B92: Pathologist Zoran Stankovic who was engaged
in investigating the effects of depleted uranium
in Bosnia and Herzegovina cites the example from
Stankovic: We had an identical situation
with the soldiers present in Hadzici at the time
of the shelling. Cases of leukaemia have been registered.
These soldiers in the Remount Bureau in Hadzici,
aware that this ammunition, these missiles made
of depleted uranium were very hard, cut them into
thin sheets and then made armour with this ammunition,
since it is really difficult to penetrate. Some
of these soldiers have also suffered from leukaemia
and unfortunately died. The example of Suzana Serenac
is a case in point. This little girl played in the
crater made by the missile fired on Hadzici, where
she came from. Soon after that she was left without
any finger or toe nails. That was a signal that
the girl needed help and after a while her parents
approached me and requested that I take a look at
her at the Military Medical Academy. We examined
her, her nails fell off, i.e. they were permanently
damaged so that even now she has some kind of indication
on her fingers and toes where her nails once were.
Soon, her condition deteriorated, followed by damage
to the respiratory tract and organs so that she
suffers from some unclear, in fact very clear infections
of the respiratory tract. A condition of asthmatic
bronchitis has been recorded and this acute condition
continues to worsen to this day. She has problems
breathing and all these changes in her condition
are very serious. On her return home after one particular
examination at the Military Medical Academy, she
fell into a coma and was consequently urgently transferred
to Tirsova children’s hospital. After four days
of intensive medical treatment in Tirsova, doctors
managed to bring her back to consciousness. However,
as a result of everything she has experienced, Suzana
now has epileptic fits and is under appropriate
Attention was drawn to the case of Hadzici because
a few years ago, a large number of deaths were reported
among those who were removed from Hadzici to Bratunac,
around 3.500 people. According to the data I have
received from reliable sources, 5-6 years after
the shelling in question, around 350 people have
died, meaning that 10% of the population has died
from symptoms such as chest cancer, kidney cancer,
bladder cancer etc.
B92: International non-governmental organisation
Human Rights Watch published a report last year
about the use of cassette bombs during the NATO
intervention on Yugoslavia. Although the media interpreted
the report as a strong condemnation of the Alliance,
it turned out that the essence of the report concerned
the recommendation that this kind of armament should
not be used since it was considered to be inhumane.
Human Rights Watch has the same attitude towards
the so-called anti-personal or contact mines. We
talked to the top man in the Human Rights Watch
armament department, Mr William Arkin, regarding
the military use of depleted uranium.
Arkin: The most sensible position should
be that NATO and other countries which use depleted
uranium search for an alternative, while the use
of depleted uranium should be eliminated. However,
I believe that a large majority of the media reports
on the so-called Balkan syndrome are exaggerated.
Nobody is saying that depleted uranium is not dangerous.
I wouldn’t like to walk around with it in my pocket
for a few months or put it between my legs if I
were planning to have children. However, I think
that this story about its effect on Italian soldiers
is completely exaggerated and that what people are
actually trying to do here, is to find an answer
to the question as to why soldiers contracted Gulf
War Syndrome. What we have established in the case
of Gulf War Syndrome is that the soldiers were exposed
to various extreme factors in addition to the stress
and trauma related to battle. The fact that the
soldiers are dying of leukaemia does not automatically
mean that the cause is exposure to depleted uranium.
As far as the use of depleted uranium in Yugoslavia
is concerned, there are two types of report. The
first relates to the use of depleted uranium in
shelling from type A10 warplanes which fired uranium
bullets mostly on Kosovo and the south of Serbia.
The second relates to the use of depleted uranium
as part of the ballast of cruise missiles used for
shelling targets in Belgrade and other places in
Serbia. The latter is completely false. Depleted
uranium has nothing to do with cruise missiles.
The Vinca Institute carried out research into the
shelling by these missiles on Smederevo and concluded
that there was no depleted uranium present. The
detailed research we carried out proves that there
is no presence of this material in the heads of
cruise missiles. I therefore consider these reports
to be false.
During the Gulf War there was a tendency to use
the same arms used during the Vietnam period in
order to clean out the cupboards as it were and
get rid of old weapons. That is not the case in
Yugoslavia. All the arms used in Yugoslavia were
subject to careful procedures. During the attack
on Nis airport on May 7, a faulty cassette bomb
ended in the town centre killing civilians. As a
result, the White House introduced a ban on the
further use of cassette bombs until the problems
related to them were resolved. Similarly, if we
take into account the number of attacks on Serbian
armoured vehicles in Kosovo, the quantity of depleted
uranium was relatively small.
B92: Gordana Brun from the Ministry for the
Protection of the Environment emphasises that ecological
damage never comes to an end and that those responsible
will have to pay for their actions.
Brun: All international norms with regard
to this issue are fairly precise and involve sanctions.
However, it is obvious that NATO, or let us say
America, the world and the international community
in general, show double standards as far as this
area of the protection of the environment is concerned.
They are, however, very concerned as to whether
these standards are followed in their our countries.
Our people put it very well and say: you will pay
in the end. The consequences are not at all insignificant,
on the contrary, they are serious and of significance
for the whole world. Unless the truth wins now and
all of the countries remain persistent, that is
Italy and Portugal, and more recently Germany has
joined the ranks, I was at the conference in Bologna
in Italy where experts talked very bravely and openly
about this problem. The experts have a clear idea
about what it is all about, but politics always
B92: Milan Orlic from the "Vinca"
Institute also believes that as far as the research
into and analysis of depleted uranium is concerned,
many things should have been done immediately after
the bombing of Yugoslavia.
Orlic: We became interested in these problems
for the first time during the bombing in Bosnia,
and especially after the bombing in our country.
Unfortunately, not everything has been done as it
could and should have been. After the war, we were
practically left in a post-accidental situation.
In such a situation, one should act according to
the law. Our Law for the protection from ionised
rays is under the authority of the Ministry of Work,
Health and Social Issues and this ministry should
have taken charge of these problems, organising
everything that was necessary, providing the financial
resources, material resources, people and equipment.
Obviously, Vinca should have done this. However,
a common language was not found and nothing productive
was done immediately after the war although there
were some concrete proposals and projects. These
projects showed what should be done in order to
reach certain conclusions with some further research
continuing until the end of the year so as to reach
final conclusions about all of the possible effects
caused by the bombing. Unfortunately, this was never
implemented and was never organised systematically.
Instead, there was some sporadic research but only
when the news hit the headlines, as it has done
so now. For a period of ten days something would
be said and done, but for the next ten days everything
would be forgotten again. Honestly speaking, there
are perhaps some serious people in charge of those
issues now who might take care of them a bit better,
and that is what I would like to see.
B92: Why have those in charge not taken care
of this before now?
Orlic: I do not know why, but it is obvious
that they failed to do their jobs. And even if they
did, they did not do them properly.
B92: We asked Colonel Zaric to tell us why all
the information regarding depleted uranium has until
now been kept a state secret?
Zaric: This information was never a state
secret, but, as happened previously, army head-quarters
will do their best to discuss this problem but only
on the basis of concrete evidence and, understandably,
to show the real dimensions of this problem. That
means we will do everything to prevent any under
or over-estimation of this problem.
B92: In response to the direct question as to
whether and to what extent we are at risk from the
effects of radioactive weapons in this region, Colonel
Zaric had the following to say.
Zaric: I am unable to estimate the dangers
in the region of Kosovo and Metohija since we do
not have any access to this area. However, what
I can say is that for the rest of Yugoslavia, excluding
Kosovo and Metohija, the risk is minimal. What I
am trying to say is that the risk of direct contamination
of people is minimal, since we are really talking
about a relatively small area contaminated by depleted
uranium – out of a total of 5 locations in Yugoslavia
the area amounts to 2,4 hectares. However, there
is still the danger of the contamination of water
currents and of food contamination. There is a certain
degree of danger, but I would like to repeat that
it is quite low, primarily owing to the fact that
the contaminated areas are known and have been fenced
off, access to them is prohibited. Therefore, there
is a very small possibility of contamination. Apart
from these locations, apart from the four locations
in the Republic of Srpska and one in the Republic
of Montenegro, there is no depleted uranium contamination
in any other cities.
Interviewee 1: We are all becoming ill.
All my neighbours have died, everyone except me.
That’s why I’m having problems with my thyroid gland.
Interviewee 2: We are resistant to it. We
are used to it.
Interviewee 3: Whose fault is it? Whether
it is our president or their president, somebody’s
leadership is to blame. It’s certainly not us looking
up at the sky here in Belgrade.
Interviewee 4: Clinton bombed us for no
reason. He should be severely punished for it. We
are going to see the effects of all this after God
knows how many years, it has all gone into the earth.
Everything we eat has been polluted.
Interviewee 5: They have to pay for poisoning
Interviewee 6: It is certainly going to
affect this area. Nothing happens just like that,
they wouldn’t have thrown it for nothing. I am afraid
for my children, not so much for myself.
Interviewee 7: We cannot change anything
by being afraid.
Interviewee 8: I am certainly concerned
about it. I happened to be in Kosovo at the time.
I suppose that our leaders could have done something
to prevent this. But somebody else known more about
that than we do. We are just ordinary people and
we know only what we are told. And we are not told
everything that happens, as was the case with other
countries where some things were not talked about.
Instead, some evidence or data comes out later on.
That is definitely what happened here.
B92: Pathologist Zoran Stankovic is also concerned
about the effects caused by the use of depleted
Stankovic: Primitive people had considerable
influence on everything that has happened in this
region. These primitive people were supported by
"great scientists", and that is why nobody
spoke about it. Each phenomenon and every event
should be clearly stated and explained correctly.
Therefore, in every case, everything must always
be investigated in order to prevent panic – on the
basis of this and that investigation we have established
that there is no contamination, no pollution, it
has been removed, we did not remove so many missiles.
Take a closer look at this food, these plants and
animals, and after all that, concrete analysis should
be conducted, as well as detailed research, and
the public should be informed. We never do this.
The only thing we do is draw conclusions on the
basis of two days analysis. You will remember that
some time ago there was a commission for nuclear
energy from Vienna here. The commission investigated
our whole country within 5 days, and announced that
no contamination had been discovered. Mind you,
this is not serious, for a mature person, for a
good expert, a scientist, such behaviour is not
serious. This demands a long-term analysis, a long-term
investigation, like those carried out in Japan.
On Zlatibor, for example, a lamb was born with eight
B92: In any case, the head of the department
for atomic-biochemical defence, Colonel Milan Zaric
and the advisor to the Ministry for the Protection
of Environment Gordana Brun, say that there is no
reason for panic, at the same time explaining that
the potential danger does exist.
Brun: What worries me is the fact that our
country, unfortunately, did not have an appropriate
monitoring system, since as we fell into deeper
economic and political difficulties, we gradually
reduced the number of measuring locations and the
number of parameters which were followed. At the
beginning of the NATO aggression, believe me, we
had no idea what was happening in the city. Gradually,
the city public health institute introduced new
parameters, we even discovered some hard metals
etc. For these reasons I am very concerned and I
can say that we actually do not know everything
that happened and what the effects will be. Therefore,
as a serious state, we have to take urgent steps
and carry out detailed research, especially as far
as the soil in the area around Pancevo is concerned.
It is scary to think that all these chemicals could
end up in the food we eat. Therefore, we have to
be much more organised as a state. The Danube is
at great risk. We need to hurry and the international
community must find a way to assist us and that
is not only for our sake. This is also in the interests
of all our neighbouring countries. As far as environmental
pollution is concerned, there are no limits since
these problems are extremely serious. What we should
be especially concerned about, and our neighbouring
countries are already concerned about this, is the
fact that the subterranean waters are polluted.
Everything that happened near the Danube had to
end up somewhere. Also the wind which blew that
huge cloud above Pancevo, and we already discussed
this on April 18, has brought us to the conclusion
of how lucky we were. We were not, it had to go
somewhere. When something is dropped into the human
environment it has to go somewhere. It will return
to us like a boomerang either through subterranean
waters, or through crops, since these are the areas
where this spreads, these are the areas where the
food comes from. The new millennium is always described
as a new era of ecology, science and here is an
example of how the international community should
not allow such things to occur again. When these
strong and powerful countries use depleted uranium,
their hypocrisy is so horrifying that it should
be rigorously penalised. The planet’s rule of profit
must be replaced by a new philosophy of life and
a new moral and ecological ethic. We can conclude
that if the Balkans are endangered, that does not
mean that some other parts of this planet will not
suffer as well. We have to fight this together.
Zaric: Depleted uranium is extremely dangerous
and it is certain that contamination from depleted
uranium leads to leukaemia and other similar illnesses.
It is difficult to estimate whether the contamination
in Kosovo has caused the occurrence of these diseases
among the members of the peace-keeping forces, since
we know nothing about the character and the scope
of the contamination in Kosovo and Metohija. There
are debates regarding the question of how dangerous
contamination from depleted uranium actually is.
Those who consider contamination from depleted uranium
to be harmless should perhaps be offered the opportunity
to build their homes in the contaminated areas and
bring their children up in such conditions.
B92: The world’s media is currently full of
stories about depleted uranium. The use of this
amoral metal, as some refer to it, along with the
stories about it, will certainly be of benefit to
some. The programme you have just been listening
to has been prepared in order to present this issue
so that all the competent people gather their courage
and begin to talk openly about this problem. Many
questions have been left unanswered. One of them
is why the story about the Balkan syndrome in European
capitals has come to the surface at the exact moment
when the old government is now leaving the White
House. What sort of water do we drink, what do we
eat, what air do we breathe? Whether the streets
we walk are covered by a thin layer of invisible
dust which kills – only time will tell.