Click here for the NIJ Archive

Issue No. 207 - January 16 , 2001
Contents :

             By Ylber Emra

2. Bosnia and Herezegovina: TESTING RANGE
             By Radenko Udovicic

             By Ivica Juric

4. Special addition : NEW AT TOL

    By Ylber Emra
     The news about possible consequences of depleted uranium weapons is the first thing to shake up the relatively stable political scene in Kosovo since local elections were held on October 28, 2000.  However, except for several incidents around the town of Prizren, most people remained fairly calm about the potential danger.
     Leaders of all the Kosovar Albanian political parties think that the danger of radiation from depleted uranium has been played up by those elements which want to prevent Kosovo from becoming independent.  In particular, they claim that Belgrade has started a whole media campaign on the dangers of these weapons.
     Albanian sources in Pristina claim that the greatest fear among Albanians is that there is possibly truth in the rumors that radiation from depleted uranium will force international peacekeeping forces to abandon Kosovo.  Those fears have been completely dispelled by representatives of international organizations, especially of KFOR and the United Nations Civil Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), who stated that depleted uranium will not cause international forces to retreat from Kosovo.
    Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (DSK), said that he feared that the whole issue of depleted uranium was "propaganda" to force KFOR to retreat from Kosovo.  Leaders of all the political parties founded from the basis of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (OVK) expressed similar attitudes.  The only exception to this was Hachim Tagi, chairman of the Democractic Party of Kosovo, who has been visiting the United States.  His "half private, half official" visit has been going on for a month now, and during this time he has met with then-secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
     The media in Pristina are also working on "calming down" the public's fear of "Balkan Syndrome" by publishing reassuring statements from medical experts.  All media has published deputy health minister Pleurat Sejdiu's statement that the number of leukemia cases in Kosovo had not increased since the end of Belgrade's rule.  The Rilindija daily (closely associated with Rugova's DSK) said in an editorial that "radiation in Kosovo is propaganda."  As a confirmation of the propaganda theory, there are claims from Pristina that Belgrade had earlier attempted to open this issue, but that all previous attempts had failed.  Claims such as the one made by Marko Jaksic, a Serbian orthopedic surgeon practicing in Kosovo, who said that in his Serb-controlled hospital there are 160 people ill with cancer, double the 1998 number of cancer patients, are met with skepticism in Pristina.  Kosovar Albanians claim that such statements are meant only to create panic among the international forces and the Albanian populace.
     The few Kosovar experts on cancer say that since the war's end in summer 1999 there has not been an increase in incidence of cancer or leukemia, but they also express doubt in the complete accuracy of their data due to the poor organization of health care in Kosovo.  Albanian health care providers have been working mostly under the table for the past ten years since members of state hospital staffs resigned as a sign of resistance against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.  Albanians founded their own university, and lessons in medicine and other disciplines were given in private homes without access to any laboratories or medical equipment.
     It seems that KFOR members are likewise unconcerned, although early in the year, the UN announced that radioactivity was found in 8 of 11 surveyed locations.  Even earlier KFOR had stated that 112 locations in Kosovo had been hit with depleted uranium, but the exact locations were not disclosed until a week later.  International forces have said that marking and cleaning these locations are part of UN plans.
 KFOR sources say that the major potential danger comes from the remains of destroyed Yugoslav tanks.  There are several dozen of them in Kosovo, including the ancient American Patton tanks and Russian T-34s that were used as decoys.  KFOR will "adequately store" all destroyed vehicles, but it is not certain that they will ever leave Kosovo.
     International officials are basically minimizing the potential danger of depleted uranium, although they admit that not all places where such ammunition was used have been found.  UNMIK chief Bernard Kouschner said that ammunition made from depleted uranium that was used on targets in Kosovo "doesn't represent a threat" but "is being seriously considered."  According to Kouschner, both KFOR and the UN's environmental protection program monitor radioactivity levels daily and that the final results of a large-scale investigation will be known in February.  Also, the health of the local population will be monitored by the World Health Organization.  The analyses are what people are most looking for, since they fear possible consequences of uranium missiles despite the assurances of international officials and Kosovar politicians.
 Missiles containing depleted uranium were fired mostly along the Albanian border and near the towns of Prizren, Djakovica and Pec.  About 31,000 projectiles were shot in that mountainous area, according to NATO information.  In that part of Kosovo, cattle-breeding and agriculture are the main sources of income for the rural population.  There are also many rivers in the region, and their water serves cities.  Kosovo has only a handful of experts on environmental issues, and not many are willing to publicly express their concerns over the dangers of depleted uranium missiles.  They leave it to international experts to proclaim their judgment.
     The Kosovar public, however, is insufficiently informed about that kind of weapon.  Depleted uranium, the end-product of the basic raw material of the nuclear industry, was given away free to Western weapons manufacturers during the last decade because safe storage of depleted uranium is very expensive and technically complicated.  A big obstacle to storing depleted uranium in the West is the opposition of environmental activist groups such as the German Green Party and Greenpeace.
     Ammunition made with depleted uranium was used only by British and American forces, although the Russian army is suspected of using it several times in Chechnya, according to an international government representative who wished to remain anonymous.  The GAU-8A, a seven-barreled rotating cannon that fires DU ammunition is mounted on an A-10 airplane.  That plane was the spearhead of attacks on lesser forces in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Following the American example, the British put DU amuntion into their planes while France, although it has the necessary technology, has never used DU.  The basic premise behind the use of this type of ammunition is its significantly greater piercing power.  During NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, 30 kgs of DU was a normal part of every tomahawk missile sent to destroy the entrenched command posts of the Yugoslav security forces.
     The source says that although possible tragic results of its use have been discussed since the DU weapons were first developed, planes from the United States and Great Britain used the ammunition against Iraqi targets during the Gulf War in 1991, against Bosnian Serbs in 1994 and against the Yugoslav Army in 1999.  During the following years, consequences of radioactive effects of these weapons began to show up, first in Iraq, then in Bosnia and among NATO soldiers who were in contact with the material during peacekeeping missions in the Balkans.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: TESTING RANGE
    By Radenko Udovicic
     Although the "Balkan Syndrome" scandal has been headline news in Bosnia and Herzegovina for several days now, no government official has even mentioned this highly disturbing issue.
     One gets the impression that responsible Bosnian politicians fear to make hasty statements and risk worsening relations with the NATO forces that are helping to maintain peace in the country.
     Italian defense minister Sergio Mattarela visited Sarajevo in order to observe the security situation in Bosnia and initiate an investigation into the causes of death of a number of Italian soldiers.  NATO ammunition containing depleted uranium has been linked with the case.  "To you, to your families, and to all Italians we owe the full truth about the deaths of several soldiers who were stationed in Bosnia and Kosovo," said the minister to Italian SFOR soldiers.  During his meetings with top Bosnian officials, Mattarela promised help in investigations into the dangers of depleted uranium, but he also asked for permission to perform undisturbed investigation on Bosnian territory.
     SFOR representatives held a press conference in Sarajevo at which they denied any connection between deaths of soldiers and their use of the controversial ammunition.  According to a NATO spokesman in Sarajevo, depleted uranium is not dangerously radioactive and NATO does not believe that it in any way causes cancer.  But when asked by journalists why NATO soldiers stationed in the region were increasingly becoming ill with cancer, the spokesman declined to answer.
     This scandal has caused a mild disturbance among the citizens of Sarajevo, since in 1995 Serbian positions around the city were bombarded by NATO airplanes.  A significant portion of the attack sites are located on what is now Bosnian territory.  However, the quantity of bombs was not all that high, which has led some people to claim that the dead soldiers were victims of some secret NATO experiments and not of DU radiation.
     The Ministry of Health of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a statement saying that since the war in Bosnia, there has been an increase in cancer-related illness, but that cancer rates are not higher than the European average.  In 1998 and for several years before that, cancer rates were 152 per 100,000 people.  In 1999 it was 230 cancer patients per 100,000.  This shows that the increase in cancer rates has occurred only recently, which adds fuel to the speculations that "Balkan Syndrome" was not related to uranium weapons but to NATO experiments conducted in Kosovo and carried into Bosnia through transfers of soldiers, equipment and ammunition.
     There is information from Bosnia's Serb Republic that the incidence of cancer is on the rise there as well.  Local politicians for now are refraining from serious accusations against NATO, but unofficially there is a whole avalanche of insults against the alliance.  From the very beginning, there were accusations that NATO did not intervene in Kosovo from democratic motives but to test its equipment and weapons.
     However, although sensational in Europe, "Balkan Syndrome" is nothing new to the Bosnian public.  Research on so-called collateral war damage began in 1996.  The war in this country left more than only cemeteries in meadows and city parks, mass graves and thousands of permanently disabled.
     Bosnian citizens also feel the consequences of war as psychological disturbances and various chronic diseases that are related to the so-called post-traumatic disorders.  Already during the war, a group of well-known neuropsychiatrists from Sarajevo began a sizeable investigation into how and to what extent the siege of Sarajevo and other war terrors influenced the psychological health of its citizens.  It is interesting to note that the study was funded by an American organization which then forbade the psychiatrists to publish the study.  Among the Bosnian public, and especially among journalists who at first could get no information at all about this study, this action was interpreted as the wish of American Secret Services to get information about the psychological deviations of the Bosnian public and take advantage of a tragic situation.  But somewhat later the results of the investigation were indeed published.  The study showed that every tenth citizen of the Bosnian capital has at least a minor psychological disorder related to war terrors. Post-traumatic stress disorder, sometimes called Vietnam Syndrome was common among those with severe disorders.
     However, the general remark is that the psychological condition of Sarajevo residents is satisfactory, taking into account the fact that they lived through three and a half years of siege, hunger and bombardment.
 The effects of the war on physical health became visible only two or three years after its end.  In 1998 the number of people with type II (Insulin-dependent) diabetes was three times as large as before the war, which is explained by high stress levels during and after the war.  Also, the number of endocrine illnesses doubled and an increase in cancer was visible among children.
     These indicators, however, do not represent the entire federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  A damaged health care system and lack of cooperation between the different ethnic groups have prevented Bosnia from making a unified appeal to international community, which could then aid the most endangered areas on the basis of truly scientific results.
      However, neither political nor military representatives have shown much interest in the health of the Bosnian people.  Bosnian authorities claim that as early as 1996, they had requested SFOR to investigate possible radioactivity in some areas of the country.  This request was denied.
     Novica Vojinovic, a Law professor in the Serb Republic said that immediately following NATO air strikes on Serbian targets in 1995, military experts sent proof that the ammunition was radioactive to the UN expert commission in Zagreb, but the commission refused to perform any analysis.  Within this context, the German radio news agency Deutsche Welle said that as many as 400 Bosnian Serbs died of leukemia since 1995.  However, this data was given by an unidentified Serbian source and is open to question because there is a general agreement that the single ontological clinic in Banja Luka, capital of the Serb Republic, would not be capable of registering such cases.
     But Bosnians have not been endangered only by depleted uranium or other substances contained in NATO's bombs.  Health in the republic has also been endangered by the food that came as part of humanitarian aid packages.  One gets the impression that the world, without regard to humanitarian motivations, took this opportunity to get rid of the stocks of canned food stored up in case of nuclear war.  Citizens of besieged Sarajevo were often eating fish or cabbage from cans stating that they were made in 1956!  There are famous examples that some meat products that came as aid were refused even by hungry dogs.  After the war, chemical analyses of some canned food showed that the concentration of chemical substances used to keep it "eternal" was several times higher than allowed.  Cat meat was found in some cans, and some products couldn't be established as organic.
     Especially current are questions that some of the food was infected with mad cow disease, brucelosys and Ku fever, the diseases that are causing a panic in Europe.  Analysis is now being done to find out whether canned food from the war contained these microbes.
 Although the majority attitude in Bosnia and Herzegovina is that the international community, and especially the United States, is responsible for radiological pollution of the country and for creating health problems among the population, there are those who claim that the Yugoslav and Serbian sides in the Bosnian conflict are responsible for a significant part of the trouble.
     Professor Amir Pleho, a well-known radiology expert, said that "Balkan Syndrome" was created on purpose by Europeans in order to discredit and blacken the USA.  According to his opinion, based on work done in expert services of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav army, which tried to develop a nuclear bomb in the 1950s and later chemical weapons, is responsible for high radiation levels in some areas of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Yugoslav radiological experiments were performed with the generous help of the French government, Pleho claims.  He claimed also that the Serbian army used depleted uranium during the war and that NATO ammunition was a minor problem in relation.
     Because of many doubts and political speculations, it is necessary to perform expert analyses in Bosnia to find the exact degree of radiation and toxic pollution and update health statistics so that one might get exact indicators.  This should be the basis for both scientific and political attitudes towards the results of the war that have been experienced over the past eight years.  Only then certain Bosnian protagonists can be accused.  This is necessary not only to keep inter-ethnic peace in Bosnia but also to destroy any doubts about the international community, which for the most part honestly and honorably tried to help Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    By Ivica Juric
     Since the recent re-escalation of the mad cow disease problem in Europe, Croatia wasted no time in presenting itself as a country completely free of the problems that were plaguing European countries.  And even more as a country that can, without the problems of developed Europe, offer a clean ecological "cheek" and even as a country where one can buy safe and non-contaminated veal.
     As a part of the former Yugoslavia that has existed for decades between Communism and Capitalism, Croatia today is proud of the fact that it has remained in many aspects a kind of ecological oasis.  This is party true because Croatia avoided the worst type of socialist industrialization that did not care about natural resources or ecological standards.  Also, Croatia was not used for dumping wastes that were either forbidden from being produced in the west or too expensive.
     There is no doubt that the strongly pro-tourism orientation of the former Yugoslavia helped in this, because Croatia was the most important tourist destination.  And this role of quality tourist destination is one Croatia intends to build on for the future and on which it will base a significant percentage of its development.  So any ecological issue is of real importance to Croatia.
     But when it advertises its ecological advantages today, Croatia seems to forget that it has survived the war and that for almost a decade it was either part of the war or at the edge of other conflicts in the Balkans and south-eastern Europe.
     This ignorance came into the foreground when Europe was shaken by a new ecological scandal, by the so-called "Balkan Syndrome" which refers to problems caused by the depleted uranium that, it seems, has been used all over the territory of the former Yugoslavia, primarily in Kosovo, but also in Bosnia for NATO air strikes.  Although the Croatian media systematically reported about the problem of NATO soldiers ill from Balkan Syndrome from the beginning, it is almost flabbergasting that almost no one asked what it might mean for Croatia.  At the beginning it seemed that Balkan Syndrome was as far from Croatia as was mad cow disease, perhaps even further.
     The number of ill European soldiers who had been serving in the region of the former Yugoslavia started to increase rapidly, and this number included those who had been living in Croatia.  As scientific reports appeared, explaining that depleted uranium acts not only instantly but also on a wide area (allegedly as far as 300 km away) and saying that it will be years before all the negative effects of DU are known, it became clear that this would be an ecological problem for Croatia as well.
     First there was a new interest in an issue that dated to the first air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  NATO airplanes flew across the Adriatic Sea to reach their targets and sometimes dropped unused bombs in the sea before returning to their base in Aviano (Italy) in order to secure a safe landing.  Although NATO denied that any bombs containing depleted uranium had been dropped into the Adriatic, many have cynically noted that the possible dangers of DU were denied for a long time until the many incidents of cancer among European soldiers showed that the problem could not be swept under the carpet so easily.
     Furthermore, with the outbreak of Balkan syndrome, the public became aware that depleted uranium was just one among many long-term consequences of heavy bombardment and that there was also a systematic destruction of various industrial plants and infrastructure (chemical, oil, etc.), some of them posing high risk, which means that the ecological consequences of their destruction are yet to be felt.  It finally became clear that those in most danger of health risks from the war were not soldiers, but the local population that must be in this environment in the long-term.
     In Croatia itself it finally came to light that as a region with a high concentration of military equipment and intense conflict it has also been contaminated in some areas.
 It soon became known that Croatian soldiers are experiencing high rates of leukemia and cancer and that weapons and equipment of questionable origin were used in the war, which could potentially be a new source of unpleasant consequences.
     Also, the public began to ask why NATO and American troops have often been using Croatian military testing grounds for their exercises and what the consequences of this could be.  The government was forced to initiate some research like measuring the level of soil contamination in areas where military exercises were held and to form special health committees that should answer questions on how prevalent Balkan Syndrome is among Croatian soldiers and civilians.
     But the question of why at the beginning Croatia so easily ignored everything that might have lurked behind Balkan Syndrome remains unanswered.  Some favor the simplistic explanation that since Croatia wants to apply for NATO membership as soon as possible, its politicians are not ready to ask unpleasant questions of their important American allies.  Also, it is known that the Croatian economy is in an extremely bad situation and that renting military testing ranges to Western countries is a good source of income for the country.  Further rent would not be possible if the issue of the ecological consequences of such deals becomes too public.
     In any case, Balkan Syndrome confirmed a dangerous custom in Croatia, and that is the reluctance of the government to be open and face up to issues of the consequences of war on its territory.  Besides studies of the worst consequences such as casualties and material damage, there were few other serious analyses or research.  Long-term consequences of the war such as socio-psychological, cultural, demographic, economic, ecological and political issues, which will have long-term influence on the development of Croatian society have been completely ignored.
     Balkan Syndrome could, unfortunately, serve as an alarm to start facing these issues as well.  Besides, maybe facing up to these issues could be a welcome dose of anti-war education to nations and countries that are, as the last decade has shown, all too ready to solve their problems with war.
Special Edition : NEW AT TOL
    Transitions Online (TOL) is the leading
Internet magazine covering Central and Eastern Europe, the
Balkans, and the former Soviet Union. If you aren't already a
member, fill out our registration form at
to receive your free two-month trial membership. If you'd like to become a TOL member
right away, go to And if you're a
citizen of a post-communist country, FREE annual memberships are
still available at

 (Free Access)
  Signaling Slovakia. Come in Slovakia
  Polish Official Calls for Media De-Politicization
  Two Church Bombings in Tajikistan Remain Unsolved
  Tensions Sparked Over Possible Nuclear Kaliningrad
  Kuchma's Former Guard Charged with Document Fraud
  Tax Landscape Changes in Russia
  New Law Aims To Make Slovakia More Transparent
  Balkans, NATO Question Depleted Uranium Dangers
  Repeat Elections Still Flawed in Azerbaijan
  Czech TV Head Still Defiant


OUR TAKE: Where's the Smoking Gun: On the Czech television crisis.

ANALYSIS: Anchoring Independence
by Petra Breyerova
    The Czech capital witnessed its largest demonstration since
the 1989 Velvet Revolution when, on 3 January, between 50,000 and
100,000 Czechs took to the streets in support of striking
television journalists. Politicians and analysts are still split
over how best to deal with the crisis, and are beginning to
speculate about the future of public Czech Television.

REPORTAGE: No More "Bobovision"
    by Petra Breyerova
    The protesters began the mass rally with a hymn sung by the
Czechs at the worst moments in their history. This time it was
less serious than a foreign invasion or an occupation, but for
many of the protesters who rallied in Prague's central square on 3
January, the demonstration was still a mark of despair.

INTERVIEW: Blocked From the World
    by Katerina Zachovalova
    "Do not open the windows or the stink will pass into the
newsroom!" reads a sign hanging on the door to the Czech TV
newsroom, occupied since 24 December 2000 by journalists
protesting what they call the station's new "politically
compromised" leadership. From the "inside," a Czech TV "rebel",
Petr Kopecky, explains the motivations of the journalists and why
the protesters have been victorious.

REGIONAL REACTION: Polish Official Calls for Media De-Politicization
    by Wojtek Kosc
    Maciej Plazynski, the speaker of the Polish Sejm (parliament),
said in an 8 January interview on Polish Radio that in order to
stave off a crisis like the one in the Czech Republic, Poland
should take steps to de-politicize the country's television and
radio committee. The statements followed his comment of last week
that "creating public media that are independent of a given
political context is an absolute necessity." The Czech TV crisis
has prompted Poland to rethink its own public media.

REGIONAL REACTION: Signaling Slovakia. Come in Slovakia.
    by Miroslava Horobova
    The crisis over public Czech TV is of great significance for
its counterpart in neighboring Slovakia. Thanks to the two
countries' shared history, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have
developed similar laws on public media. The Slovak media and even
the general public have expressed sympathy for Czech TV's
protesting reporters, while Slovak officials have remained vague
about their stance on the issue, no doubt hoping the rebellious
tremors in Prague won't cross the border to Bratislava.

SPECIAL REPORT: "Kuchmagate"

FEATURE: "A Ukraine Without Kuchma"
    by Oleg Varfolomeyev
    Protesters across Ukraine are working fast to set up tent
cities ahead of a series of planned protests and hunger strikes
aimed at exposing the truth behind the September disappearance of
an opposition journalist and a scandalous audio tape that purports
to link the crime to the president's office. Ukrainians take to
the streets in what could well turn out to be the Central European
scandal of the decade: "Kuchmagate."

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: "Let the Chechens Have Him"
    On 28 November 2000, Ukrainian Socialist Party leader
Oleksandr Moroz presented an audio tape to parliament that
allegedly linked the presidential administration to the
mid-September disappearance of opposition journalist Georgy
Gongadze. The audio tape that is said to incriminate Kuchma and
his ministers was allegedly recorded by a former Security Service
officer, Mykola Melnychenko, who says that he bugged Kuchma's
cabinet for nearly a year. The following are excerpts from an
English-language translation from the Kyiv Post of the tape

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: "Kuchmagate" Chat-Room Links Public to Scandal
    The man responsible for placing Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma in the scandal spotlight--Socialist Party leader Oleksandr
Moroz--spouted off in an online interview on 28 December about the
extent of corruption in the government. The high-profile scandal
that has the country talking about impeachment began in
mid-September with the disappearance of opposition journalist
Georgy Gongadze and the December discovery of a decapitated body
believed to be his. The following interview, appeared on the news
website Ukrainska Pravda.

FEATURE: Sensitive Fibres
    by Wojtek Kosc
    It looks like the Skowronski family's strawberry fields won't
be forever. The family, who lives in the northern Polish village
of Wyczalkow, has been fighting the gas company, EuRoPol Gaz over
a fibre-optic cable that is being laid alongside the pipeline. The
Skowronskis aren't the only ones up in arms. When Russian gas
giant Gazprom laid its network of pipes through Poland, it used
the opportunity to install high-tech lines of communication
without Poland's consent, causing a storm.
OPINION: Don't Forget the Home Front
    by Elena Chinyaeva
    A year has passed since President Boris Yeltsin resigned,
leaving Russia to his "successor" Vladimir Putin, the former
security service chief who had been appointed prime minister half
a year earlier. In March he was elected the president of Russia,
having promised an ambitious slate of reforms: The political
system was to be streamlined, with all the players assigned
strictly to their pigeonholes, the economy was to be liberalized,
and Russia as a whole was to return to international