RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN KOSOVO TO UNDERGO HEALTH CHECKS

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RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS IN KOSOVO TO UNDERGO HEALTH CHECKS

Segodnya, January 6, 2001, p. 2

The Defense Ministry has finally taken some notice of the scandal over NATO using bombs containing low-grade uranium during the 1999 Yugoslavian campaign. In a January 5 interview on Echo of Moscow radio, Lieutenant General Nikolai Staskov, Chief of Staff of the Russian Airborne Troops, said preliminary health checks for Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo are planned to be done by January 10. The medical checkup is aimed at detecting possible cases of leukemia among the Russian paratroopers. But Staskov had claimed that there was no risk to the health of Russian peacekeepers in Yugoslavia, since they are “protected against leukemia – they have undergone special testing prior to assignment”. At the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Moscow Military District, one of the units supervising the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo, we were likewise assured that “to date, the Russian peacekeepers have not filed any reports about damage to their health”.

The absence of complaints from the paratroopers serving in Kosovo may be explained by the relatively small size of the Russian contingent. Even in groups of thousands, like the contingents of Western countries, only a few cases of leukemia have been registered; in six cases the outcome has been fatal, all the deceased being Italian peacekeepers. Currently, four former peacekeepers are undergoing medical treatment in France; their condition is reported as critical. Relatives of British, Czech, and Portuguese peacekeepers who have returned home suffering from leukemia have also raised the alarm. Analysts are calling this “the Balkans syndrome”.

SLOW RESPONSE FROM RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

Trud, January 6, 2001, p. 1

A number of European NATO members are alarmed about the health and safety of their servicemen currently serving in the Balkans peacekeeping contingents.

Against this background, the lack of a corresponding response from Russia appears surprising, despite the fact that about 4,000 Russian peacekeepers are currently serving in Kosovo and another 1,500 in Bosnia. When we asked the Defense Ministry for comments, we received some remarkable responses. According to Major General Alevtin Yunak, Deputy Chief of the Defense Ministry’s Environmental Service, the military still hasn’t even tried to check the areas where Russian peacekeepers are stationed for radioactive contamination. “At present we are only planning to do this,” Yunak stated.

Furthermore, the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo is not even equipped with alpha and beta radiation meters. According to our sources, it was only yesterday that the General Staff of the Russian Airborne Troops was ordered to urgently dispatch a radiation monitoring group to the Balkans to check out the situation there. There has also been an order to urgently organize medical checkups for the Russian peacekeepers. However, the Defense Ministry issued these orders only after the latest alarming reports from the West.

PRESIDENT SUBMITS BILL ON POLITICAL PARTIES TO DUMA

Moskovsky Komsomolets, January 6, 2001, p. 2

The Duma will only reconvene on January 17. However, President Putin has already prepared a long-awaited “gift” for them: on January 5 he submitted a bill on political parties for consideration.

The bill in question is in fact a very fine sieve. If passed (and there is every reason to believe it will be), it will allow only the largest and most powerful political parties through – and discard all the smaller ones. But what is a political party, according to the new bill? Such a party must have branches in over half of Russia’s regions; each of those branches should have no fewer than 100 members. The party’s overall membership should be no fewer than 10,000.

Incidentally, the Kremlin version of the bill envisions that “people holding state or municipal office have no right to take advantage of their positions in the interests of any political party”. But how can the Unity movement (for example) possibly get into the Duma in the next parliamentary election if it observes this requirement?

ACCIDENTAL ATTEMPT ON KADYROV’S LIFE

Segodnya, January 6, 2001, p. 3

On the evening of January 4, a powerful mine exploded near the village of Bachi-Yurt in Chechnya, along the route taken by the motorcade of Akhmad Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s provisional government. The Chechen government’s press service insists that the accident was “another attempt on Kadyrov’s life”. However, for some unknown reason representatives of the federal government in Chechnya do not share this viewpoint. Thus, Vladimir Bokovikov, a deputy presidential envoy for the Southern federal district, says “there is no indisputable evidence that the guerrillas have singled out Kadyrov as their target”.

Strange as it may seem, Kadyrov’s bodyguards did not report the accident to the command of the Joint Grouping of Federal Forces, nor to the Chechnya prosecutor’s office, nor to the Kremlin. Furthermore, according to our sources, during the January 5 meeting chaired by Kadyrov in Gudermes, Kadyrov didn’t even make a passing reference to the accident. This is apparently why Vsevolod Chernov, Main Prosecutor of Chechnya, was clearly amazed to hear about the attempt on Kadyrov’s life – and told us that ” has not instigated any criminal proceedings on this case”. On the other hand, a source in Bokovikov’s administration has confirmed that the explosion took place on January 4, but stressed that “all routes used by Kadyrov are kept confidential; therefore, the explosion near Kadyrov’s motorcade was obviously a coincidence”.

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