As the Russian invasion of Ukraine drags into another year, the country's Red Cross chief Raksym Dotsenko, admitted it faces a huge humanitarian challenge. However, it is not only the millions of displaced, or aiding those who lost houses or apartments and are virtually homeless. The main problem are the landmines and antipersonnel mines left by the Russian troops.
Dotsenko pointed out that his branch of the Red Cross does not have access to territories in Ukraine currently under Russian control, and tries to coordinate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Red Cross tries to organize demining operations with the help of military forces since 'significant areas have been mined. However, demining operations can often take years.
Last year, the US State Department said it would provide over US$ 95 million in demining assistance, including providing training and technology to locate and remove land mines.
We expect this to be one of the largest land mine and unexploded ordnance challenges since World War Two,” said the State Department's program manager for ordnance removal, Michael Tirre, in remarks to the US Helsinki Commission in December.
The government of Ukraine estimates that 160,000 square kilometers of land may be exposed to contamination with land mines, according to a State Department statement.
In June, 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on Russia's deployment of land mines in Ukraine, with Russian antipersonnel mines having been heavily used in the Donetsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions. These include newly developed types of antipersonnel mines that have not been used before.
Russia's brazen use of antipersonnel mines in a country that has explicitly prohibited these weapons is unprecedented and deserves strong global condemnation, Stephen Goose, arms director at HRW, said in an article published on the organization's website.
Although the report said it is not currently possible to determine the exact number of land mines or casualties, the impact of mine use is being seen through the denial of access to civilian homes, infrastructure, transport routes and agricultural land.
It added that evidence points to agricultural production being disrupted by the presence of mines on rural paths and roads. HRW documented one incident of a farmer being wounded after his tractor struck an anti-vehicle mine.
Definitely this problem will stay with Ukraine for decades, said Dotsenko. We are very worried about this. Day after day in Ukraine, you will listen about the civilians killed because of the mines. And that is terrible.
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