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    Copyright: All those wishing to use or publish the following text are welcome to do so, provided that they indicate the source and inform the AIM office in Paris which is interested to receive comments and reactions on the information it provides. AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    THU, 15 FEB 2001 00:48:03 GMT

    The Balkan Syndrome Has Not Missed Bulgaria

    The authorities in Sofia underestimate the case of sergeant Danailov who suffers from muscle dystrophia after his service in Kosovo, and await information from the NATO. The radiation in the province sprinkled with depleted uranium is by 20 per cent below that in Sofia, claims the minister of the army Bojko Noev.

    AIM Sofia, January 28, 2001

    When on January 3, a platoon set out to Kosovo in order to replace the Bulgarians who form part of the German contingent of KFOR stationed near Prizren, five officers and 35 sergeants and professional soldiers, with their families, all looked obviously confused. It was the same on January 5, when 25 Bulgarian policemen started on their way towards the unstable Serbian province in order to join the UNMIK mission.

    The cause was an avalanche of information on the growing number of ailing soldiers from various NATO contingents in Kosovo due to the use of depleted uranium ammunition during bombing of Yugoslavia. But, above all, there was the news about sergeant Danail Danailov who returned from there with quite disturbing symptoms in his health file. The Bulgarian platoon left for Prizren without having been acquainted with the "uranium" instructions of the NATO. The instructions had arrived in the Ministry of Defence a couple of days before their departure and there was no time to translate them into Bulgarian.

    The policemen who left in the beginning of January had no idea either what depleted uranium ammunition was nor how it affected the human organism. That is why they did not know what protective measures could be taken. They had not been instructed by experts. The command of the contingent had no information about the regions of former Yugoslavia that had been bombed with depleted uranium ammunition.

    At least on three locations in the German sector in Kosovo where the Bulgarian platoon is located sources of beta radiation were discovered, as it is claimed in the preliminary results of the OUN Environment Protection Program (UNEP).

    At the same time, expert studies of Bulgarian military experts have not revealed radiation above the permissible. Minister of defence Bojko Noev solemnly declared that the radiation in Kosovo was by 20 per cent below that in Sofia. Biochemical blood analyses of Bulgarian soldiers in Suva reka near Prizren have not shown any changes, head of the Military Medical Academy, general Rumen Zlatev, claims. "To this moment we have no proven cases of sickness caused by war action, the case of sergeant Danailov inclusive", Noev was categorical.

    However, in the end of March last year sergeant Danail Danailov from the first Bulgarian platoon, was sent back home after serious intoxication. Physicians in the German military hospital established that it was a case of rabdomiolisis - decomposition of the muscle system. Danailov was treated on six occasions in various hospitals, but the cause of intoxication was not determined. On January 18, Danailov left to the German city of Ulm where he will be subjected to detailed tests. Minister Noev does not think that his ministry was late in resolving the health problems of the sergeant because he had confidence in Bulgarian physicians who claimed that his sickness was not caused by his service in Kosovo. Sergeant Danailov has started to lose his hair, he constantly feels a pain in the chest, nausea, weakness and he perspires all the time. For some time he has also the arrhythmia of the heart, and his liver swells every now and then and then gets back to normal.

    The case of Danailov dates back from March 2000, but the Ministry concealed this incident for two months. It also concealed that 19 Bulgarian peacekeepers suffered from a serious respiratory disease and that in the blood of some of them the same chemical that had been found in Danailov’s blood – dicumaronone. The Bulgarians who served in former Yugoslavia are not the only ones who have difficulties linked to the so-called Balkan syndrome.

    According to the writing of the press, in the region of the town of Trn near the western border of Bulgaria which was the nearest to the site of war action in Kosovo two years ago, the people complain that after the bombing majority of them started feeling pain in the joints, muscles, backs. Many of them suffer from asthma. Others often feel exhaustion. An increasing number of young men complain of the pain in the bones and legs even while standing up from a chair. Similar symptoms are characteristic for the sickness caused by depleted uranium, experts believe.

    In the village of Glogovica near Trn which is 3 or 4 kilometres away from the place where during the war a NATO missile had fallen, ten people have died of cancer in a year. The local people do not remember such a high death rate. According to physicians who have private practice in Trn, diseases of the respiratory organs among children spread enormously last autumn. Just in November last year 400 boys and girls with severe cough and suffocation were registered in the city hospital. The diagnosis was whooping cough, but the symptoms were somewhat different, as if of a new kind of disease.

    In the background of all these disturbing data, President Petar Stojanov published that he was not inclined to convene the Consulting Council of National Security because of the scandal concerning NATO uranium bombs. He said that he would wait until he got detailed information which he hoped would be presented to him by NATO.

    However, many people quite logically put the following question: why is the President so sure that Brussels would tell him the whole truth, if according to his own confession, Sofia had not been warned about the use of depleted uranium ammunition or about the possible risks it conceals.

    In other words, Bulgarian government is doing its best to defend the thesis about the “environmentally clean” war in Kosovo by all means because this suits the Bulgarian “civilisational choice” – to join the Euro-Atlantic organisations. During bombing of Serbia, the inhabitants of northwestern parts of Bulgaria had already complained about certain strange diseases that attacked their crops. Minister of the environment Evdokija Maneva ordered tests to be made which yielded negative results concerning the presence of poisonous or contagious substances in the air. Bulgarian authorities are nowadays trying to prove that regardless of what was happening during NATO bombing, it was not dangerous for the people’s health or the environment.

    Since the scandal broke out, a large number of scientists launched a campaign of “instructing” the public in order to prove that the uranium is harmless. However, majority of the Bulgarians is not inclined to believe it especially because the facts do not seem to speak in favour of scientific explanations.

    People are simply aware that it is not just alcohol and cigarettes that are harmful to their health, but so is the manner in which the NATO “kept” peace in Kosovo for 78 days. And something else – whatever happens next, Bulgarian government will continue to claim that NATO bombing has not endangered human health or the environment of this country.

    Plamen Kulinski