The article under the headline, "Big NATO exercise in Banja Luka soon: Airplane squadrons, depleted uranium, and media preparation of Serbs in Republika Srpska," claims that an agreement had been reached at the defense department level, by the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AFBiH) and the US Embassy Office of Defense Cooperation in BiH, with the assistance of the Deputy Commander of the US Army in Europe. These documents indicate that the drills will be held in two stages.
The first, in 2018, will include theoretical training of representatives of the AFBiH. The second stage, at the beginning of 2019, will be held at a test site near the main city of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, in which 10 NATO A-10 aircraft will participate, carrying Vulcan missiles, in which allegedly "some type of depleted uranium" is used.
Depleted uranium is well known to Serbs in Serbia itself, and in the Republika Srpska, and serious debate is still taking place about its impact on the growth of cancer cases in the region.
According to radiologist Slobodan Cikaric, during the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, up to 15 tons of shells containing depleted uranium were dropped on the country. The scientist believes that this is the cause of the outbreak of cancer cases, and in his interview to Serbia's “Politika” newspaper, he cited the following data as a comparison: in 2010, 21.129 people had died of cancer, which is 26% more than in 2001, that is, the death rate was growing at 2.6% per year. According to data from February 2017 in Serbia for every 100,000 people there are 490 cancer patients, while the average number in the world is 290 per 100,000 people.
Deputy Defense Minister of BiH Boris Jerinic has called information on the possible use of depleted uranium during the exercises "lies." Jerinic told the daily Euroblic on Tuesday that the details of the exercise are yet to be agreed upon, "but it is possible that airplanes will take part."
“No live ammunition will be used, let alone that with depleted uranium. That's not done anywhere in the world and none of us would allow such a thing. There will be no consequences for the citizens,” he concluded.
Nevertheless, the President of Republika Srpska (RS) Milorad Dodik appealed to Mladen Ivanic, a member of the Presidium of BiH, and pointed out the unacceptability of carrying out these exercises. Ivanic, in turn, replied that the Presidium had not received any notification from the Ministry of Defense about these drills, but in any case they cannot be conducted without the Presidium-approved plan for 2019. Ivanic stressed that no government authority of BiH would support the use of depleted uranium during the exercises.
The President of Republika Srpska, in an interview with local media explained that he did not object to NATO drills as such:
"It's one thing that exercises will be held 15 kilometers from Banja Luka using NATO aircraft, however, it is unclear why they're needed as BiH doesn't have its own air force. The problem is not in the exercises, but in the use of depleted uranium. They are now saying that there are no agreements, but we have documents and evidence to prove that this is not so,” Dodik told Serbian channel “Prva.”
Dodik explained to Sputnik that the plan was being prepared in secret, but some representatives of the Bosnian authorities, who participated in the negotiations on behalf of Republika Srpska had helped the details come to light.
“We have learned this from conscientious people who understand that they represent Republika Srpska, and that's how they differ from those who are willing to commit treason. The plan was adopted and it also includes the use of ammunition with depleted uranium. The plan also provides that, starting February, information training, as they call it, of the local population should begin, so that people believe in the benefit of these exercises, in which I certainly do not believe.”
Dodik stressed that under these conditions, Republika Srpska would not give its consent for the drills.
“Some will say — no one is going to ask you. Let them try to organize the drills — and they'll see it won't work,” said Dodik.
However, the US Embassy in BiH has also denied the possibility of using warheads or depleted uranium.
“More often this type of information comes from Serbs who receive their paychecks from Western institutions. They come up with stories that should fit into the general stereotype about Russians, who come to mess up something in Europe, but they are absolute lies. We are developing constructive cooperation with the Russians, and that's the way it will be. We will cooperate in all areas, regardless of whether one likes it or not.”
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.