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Russia accuses West over uranium

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia has accused the West of ignoring its warnings about the hazards of using depleted uranium weapons in Kosovo.

Politicians and generals said the Kremlin had long ago foreseen the dangers the weapons posed to humans and the environment although preliminary tests had found no illness among Russian troops.

The criticism came on Wednesday as NATO ambassadors agreed to set up an inquiry into the effects of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition on troops serving in the Balkans.

But Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the West should have heeded Kremlin warnings long ago.

"We are surprised that NATO countries are only now talking about the ecological damage wreaked by their aggression," Rogozin said. Russia fiercely opposed the 1999 NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia.

"All these reports and research were conducted long ago. Volumes of documents about the chemical pollution of the environment and the effect on people living in that zone have been presented," Rogozin said.

Balkans Syndrome
Balkans Syndrome

  •  Uranium facts
  •  Search for truth
  •  Depleted uranium effects
  •  Q&A: NATO fears
  •  Cause for doubt
  •  Cancer, leukaemia reports
  •  What they say
  •  In-depth: Kosovo
  •  News search

The head of environmental safety for Russian armed forces, Lieutenant-General Boris Alekseyev, said concern was first raised in June 1999.

"But the danger we talked about did not get any reaction, either in our own country or in the West," the daily Kommersant quoted Alekseyev as saying.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson maintained that there was no proven link between DU and cancer in soldiers, but said NATO would "never be complacent."

"The existing medical consensus is clear: the hazard from depleted uranium is both very limited and limited to very specific circumstances. NATO is doing everything it can to ensure that relevant information is made publicly available."

Meanwhile, NATO and Yugoslavia agreed on Wednesday to share all available information concerning depleted uranium used during the Balkan conflicts.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, who held talks in Brussels with new Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, said the alliance had "nothing to hide and everything to share" in trying to reassure troops and civilians there was no lasting health hazard from the slightly radioactive materials.

Svilanovic, said Yugoslavia and NATO needed an open discussion on the consequences of depleted uranium munitions and to guarantee for the local population that they were safe.

Grim surprises

Several European states have stepped up health checks on veterans and set up national inquiries into the potential risks of exposure to radioactive dust.

Senior NATO medical experts will meet on Monday to review the situation and report immediately.

"NATO is committed to getting the facts on the table. The surgeons-general will meet in Brussels and their findings will be presented to the public," NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Joseph W. Ralston said.

The Greek journalists' federation also said it would screen members who covered the wars in Kosovo and Bosnia.

"We have been asked by the journalists' insurance plan to collect the names of journalists, cameramen and technicians who have worked in Bosnia and Kosovo so they immediately can undergo medical checks for radiation," George Savidis of the Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions told Reuters.

But Rogozin said the effects of the NATO bombardment of Kosovo would haunt the Balkans for years to come and probably hold more grim surprises for the West and the Yugoslav people.

"It is highly likely that there are hidden facts not only about the damage done by depleted uranium... I have been in Pancevo, not far from Belgrade, where a big chemical works was totally destroyed by American aviation," Rogozin said.

He said tonnes of mercury entered the water table, and that it was "probable" that there would be other damage "not just to soldiers but to the wider population of Yugoslavia."

Reuters contributed to this report.

Uranium health checks stepped up
January 9, 2001
Caution urged over 'Balkans syndrome'
January 8, 2001
NATO and EU discuss weapons fears
January 9, 2001
Pressure mounts over 'Balkan Syndrome'
January 9, 2001
Germany confirms weapons warning
January 8, 2001
NATO urged to probe 'Balkans sickness'
January 5, 2001
Radiation found at Kosovo bomb sites
January 5, 2001

Gulf War Illnesses
United Nations Environment Programme
Russian Government
Depleted Uranium - The Silver Bullet
Depleted Uranium

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