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BELGRADE, March 24. /ITAR-TASS/. A tragic date is marked on Monday in Serbia and in Montenegro: it’s 15 years since NATO started bombing the territory of these states, which then formed part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Operation Allied Force, which NATO carried out without the approval of UN Security Council, lasted for 78 days. Objects on the whole territory of Serbia and Montenegro became targets of NATO bomber aircraft and cruise missiles. The pretext for starting the aggression involving 19 NATO members led by the USA was the failure of talks on Kosovo in Rambouillet, France, and Serbia’s denial to sign the “peace plan”. One of the plan’s paragraphs stipulated the deployment of foreign troops in Kosovo, which practically meant the military occupation of the region.
The formal pretext for the attack was the discovery in Kosovan village of Racak of a mass grave with bodies of Albanian civilians allegedly shot by Serbian servicemen. Later it turned out that this was a falsification staged with the assistance of western intelligence services. The major part of the casualties was militants of Kosovo Liberation Army killed in different areas of the region in clashes with Yugoslavian law enforcers.
In the course of NATO attacks, defense facilities of Serbian Air Force, Air Defense units and military industrial facilities were gradually destroyed along with civil infrastructure facilities — bridges, factories, transport hubs, power plants and power transmission lines.
In the course of 11 weeks of NATO Air Force’s operation, a total of 2,300 air attacks on 995 objects were carried out. 1,150 combat airplanes were used in the operation. 420,000 explosive items were thrown, including 20,000 heavy air bombs, 1,300 cruise missiles, 37,000 cluster bombs, many of which were filled with depleted uranium. Over 2,000 civilians became victims of the bombings (mainly on the territory of Kosovo and Metohija), as well as 1,000 servicemen; over 5,000 people were wounded and over a thousand people were reported missing.
The military industrial infrastructure of Serbia was in fact completely destroyed; over 1,500 settlements were dragged down, as well as 60 bridges, 30% of schools, and about 100 monuments. According to Serbian experts, material losses after the bombings depending on the calculation methods totaled $60-100 billion.
The bombings stopped June 9, 1999, when representatives of Yugoslavian army and NATO in Macedonian city of Kumanovo signed a military technical agreement on the withdrawal of troops and police units of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from Kosovo and on deployment of international troops on Kosovo’s territory. A day later, UN Security Council adopted the corresponding resolution number 1244. According to it, 37,200 servicemen of Kosovo Force (KFOR) from 36 countries were deployed on the territory of the southern Serbian province. As a result of the NATO military expansion against Yugoslavia, Kosovo declared its independence in Pristina on February 17, 2008.
Indirect consequences of the NATO attack can be noted on people’s health. The radiation level in several localities in southern Serbia (mainly in Kosovo and Metohija), which were hit by depleted uranium in 1999 (112 areas in total, according to Serbian Army’s General Staff), still exceeds critical standards. Scientists link the cancer incidence rate in the country with NATO bombings. This year, some 40,000 new cases of cancer are forecasted in Serbia, the total population of which amounts to 7.2 million people. This grim forecast was made by Slobodan Cekaric, the head of the Serbian Society against Cancer.
A report published by the Doctor Milan Jovanovic Batut National Institute of Public Health in 2007 warned about “a quiet epidemic of malignant diseases” in Serbia. Thus, men’s morbidity with prostate cancer increased by 60% from 1999 to 2005. Other cancer-induced diseases are also on the rise both among men and women. Cancer is one of the main causes of death around the globe, claiming about 8 million human lives annually. However, malignant diseases in Serbia grow at a higher rate than in Western Europe, increasing from year to year, Serbian doctors say.
The situation is particularly alarming in southern Serbia which was worst hit by NATO bombs. According to Radomir Kovacevic, the head of the radiological protection department of the Doctor Dragomir Karajovic Institute, people who live in the uranium-polluted areas, run the risk of falling ill with lymph cancer, leukemia, breast and lung cancer.