Serbia Honors Victims of NATO’s Dirty Bombings - Country Grapples With Environmental Damage
This week, Serbia honors the memory of the victims of NATO bombings.
I'll remind you, in March 1999, the Alliance had begun a military operation in Yugoslavia without the approval from the UNSC. The air strikes that the West called 'humanitarian intervention' lasted all the way up to June of the same year. NATO struck military objects and former Yugoslavian plants and factories. The Alliance planes put 70% of all oil processing resources of the Republic out of order. 78 industrial enterprises and 42 power stations were either destroyed or damaged. About 2000 civilians, including hundreds of children, fell victim to the air strikes. These are the victims directly from the bombings.
One of the scariest results of the Operation Allied Force was a significant aggravation of the ecological situation in the entire Eastern Europe. Upon the end of the conflict, the UN had distinguished 4 hot spots in Yugoslavia. These were the places where the bombings have led to the worst environmental complications. A mining and concentrating complex in Bor, East Serbia had been attacked. The dam that was holding back liquid waste from the factory had broken down. Nearby areas and groundwater were poisoned. Strikes on the Zastava automobile plant in Kragujevac have led to toxic pyrrolines to leak into Danube's feeder, Morava. There was serious oil leakage in the Danube in the town of Novy Sad. However, the dirtiest NATO strike (no pun intended) was the bombing of a chemical factory in Pančevo. It's a suburb of Belgrade.
As a result of series of the strikes, 1,5K tons of EDC, 800 tons of hydrogen chloride solution, 3,000 tons of lye, 200 tons of ammonia, and tons of mercury ended up in the Danube. Pančevo was bombed systematically for a long time. The factory kept burning almost constantly. The vinyl chloride levels in the air, along with carbon black, SO2, and other substances were 10,000 times higher than the norm around the factory. For 10 days, the area around the enterprise was covered with a 15-km toxic cloud. Meanwhile, NATO planes kept striking other factories in the Republic as well.
As a result, excesses MAC of toxic substances were registered even in Bulgaria, Greece, and Ukraine. Romania had 4 occurrences of acid rain from mid-May till June.
However, NATO's choice for bombings wasn't the most brutal one, it was their weapon choice. It's a known fact that Yugoslavia used to use ammo with depleted uranium. This metal is used for the production of service bullets and projectiles. This being said, it's extremely radioactive and toxic. According to official estimates, 10-15 tons of such bombs could've been dropped onto Serbia. The UN experts had counted over 100 cases in Kosovo alone. Almost all of the local water was contaminated, and recognized by the UN as unsafe for consumption.
The deviousness of depleted uranium is in the fact that it flies to pieces when it blows up, contaminating large areas. It's impossible to collect all the pieces and fully deactivate the territory.
Cedomir Vranjanac, Lieutenant-General: «The radioactive particles remain on the ground. They sink into the ground with rain and snow, spreading over large territories. Pets drink contaminated water and eat contaminated foods, eventually becoming links in the food chain. This is how radiation makes its way into human bodies».
According to experts' estimates, the ground will remain radioactive for about 100 more years, and not just in Serbia.
Petr Iskanderov, a Candidate of Historical Sciences: «This is a so-called small nuclear supply. Due to the river flows, the winds and such this radioactive dust could easily have traveled to neighboring countries. The first ones to take the hit were Montenegro and Macedonia. It's also possible that Bulgaria and the entire Black Sea coast could have been affected».
Only now, 2 decades later, the experts finally have the opportunity to study the consequences of the usage of such ammo. From 1999 to 2012, registered lymphoid cancer cases in Serbia have increased by 80%. In Kosovo, oncology cases have increased by 57%. Scientists believe that in the future, the number of cancer patients in Serbia will be 2.5 times higher than the global average.