The uneasiness of war, life for the Czech anti-chemical unit stationed in Kuwait

Czech anti-chemical troops stationed in Kuwait, photo: CTK

As the war in Iraq continues there is the increasing threat of chemical or biological weapons being used in the conflict. Czech troops are under continuing pressure to act if such event would occur. Martin Hrobsky spoke to Czech Radio's correspondent in Kuwait, Vit Pohanka. He began by asking him what happens in the event of an attack and what life is like for the Czech anti-chemical troops stationed in Kuwait.

Czech anti-chemical troops stationed in Kuwait,  photo: CTK
"So basically whenever there is an air-raid alarm they have to put on not only their gas masks but also their protective kit and then they have to go to the shelter. The problem is, that, they are now based at this huge hall in the international fair center, just outside of Kuwait City. The air-raid shelter is in one of the corners of the hall and there they have to sit and wait until the alarm is canceled or called off, only then can they go back to their bed. And if that happens, as it did last week several times during the night, then of course you don't get too much sleep and it can be rather depressing."

What is their mood like?

"Judging from the interviews that they give, they are coping with the situation alright. After all, they say that its something we have been trained for, we are prepared for this, and that's why we are here, we are ready and its not a problem. At the same time, I would say the impression that I got from talking to them, is that they are getting rather annoyed and board. Psychologically it must be difficult to be stuck to this one small area, all of them together. They don't have any possibility to leave the building unless they go out to monitor any traces of chemical or biological agents in the atmosphere, which they do but only in small groups. So the vast majority of them just stay in the base and they do whatever they can to cope with the time. They play games, they watch CNN, they watch mainly Czech films in the cinema, and it must be rather frustrating I imagine."

Dusan Lupuljev,  photo: CTK
With the threat of chemical weapons being used, with the increasing rumors in the media that Iraq could use such weapons in the coming days, I guess the unit must feel that their hands are tied, that they are in Kuwait and sitting there?

"Well they are saying themselves that they would be willing to help wherever they are needed. Which implies that they would like to go to Iraq if there is such a need. Of course the problem is the, lets say the legal framework under which they are here. It is quite often forgotten in the media reports that they here under the auspices of the operation 'Enduring Freedom'. So legally, they can work here, they can be deployed in Kuwait and also a number of country's including Turkey or Israel. But they are not supposed to go to Iraq. But they themselves, as I say, they seem to be more then willing to go to Iraq if such a need arises. But at the moment it is not even legally possible."