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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Should Pay for Uranium Damage

A senior Russian defence official issued fresh denunciations Thursday of NATO's use of depleted uranium weapons in Yugoslavia and said the alliance should pay for tests and any damage it may have inflicted.

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the Defence Ministry's international relations chief and leading hawk, told Interfax that NATO had a duty to check the health of all Yugoslavs, not just troops in Kosovo.

"It is extremely important that NATO countries pay attention not only to damage which may have been caused to the health of servicemen in the...Kosovo operation, but to all damage caused in Yugoslavia, to its people and ecology," he said.

"All actions in assessing this damage and in dealing with the consequences must be conducted by countries of the North Atlantic alliance at their expense."

NATO ambassadors promised at a meeting Wednesday to investigate the effects of depleted uranium, but said it posed a minimal health risk. It pledged to do all it could to reassure troops and civilians worried by cancer scares.

Russia fiercely opposed NATO's 11-week 1999 air campaign on Yugoslav targets, launched in response to Belgrade's crackdown on the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo province. It later contributed peacekeepers to a force deployed in Kosovo since the region was put under U.N. administration.

Ivashov said no cases of "Balkans Syndrome" had been noted among Russian servicemen who had served in Kosovo or in earlier peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.

Russia says it wants to test as many as possible of its 10,000 or so Balkan veterans and the roughly 3,000 peacekeepers it has in Kosovo and 1,000 men stationed in Bosnia.

Itar-Tass quoted a high-ranking general as saying that high background radiation and contamination of the water table could render large parts of Kosovo uninhabitable.