As a result of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, the area contaminated with mines and explosives is 7,000 square km in the territory of Donbas controlled by Kyiv. Another 14 thousand square km – in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
This information was announced by Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Defense on European integration Anatoliy Petrenko during the online meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation on Security Dialogue on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), Conventional Ammunition Stockpiles (SCA) and mine action.
The Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine informed that 29 groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and 16 pyrotechnic teams of the State Emergency Service are currently engaged in demining in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
To date, these groups alone have cleared more than 35,500 hectares of land, more than 2,000 km of roads, and 1,000 km of railways. More than 460,000 explosive devices and remnants of the war were found and destroyed.
Western partners are also helping Ukraine solve this problem. Anatoliy Petrenko thanked international non-governmental organizations, in particular, The HALO Trust, the Danish Demining Group (DDG), the Swiss Mine Action Fund (FSD), which have been cooperating with the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine since 2016.
Some clean – others pollute
While some territories of Donbas manage to be cleared, others at the same time are polluted. Experts say that today Donbas has become one of the most explosive-contaminated areas on the planet.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine constantly reports that militants in Donbas are carrying out additional mining in one or another area along the line of contact. At the same time, ammunition is installed in the immediate vicinity of settlements, on objects of civil infrastructure.
Anti-tank and anti-personnel mines are used, including those prohibited by international conventions, as well as improvised explosive devices. A very serious problem, according to Ukrainian intelligence, is that in most cases there are no minefield schemes, and chaotic mining creates significant difficulties in the future process of clearing these areas of ammunition. Now no one can say exactly which mines, how many and where they are installed.
The consequences of this chaos have been felt for a long time. The latest example is a seriously wounded 35-year-old woman who crawled to the position of the Ukrainian military in the area of occupied Dokuchaevsk on May 14. She tried to cross the line of demarcation past the checkpoint, but, walking along the path, exploded near the positions of the militants.
Experts say that the nature of the wounds gives grounds to claim that the woman stepped on the PMN-2 mine. Pro-Russian militants receive them from the Russian Federation and, in violation of the Ottawa Convention (on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines), install them en masse in the Donbas.
Ukrainian sappers have repeatedly found dozens of such ammunition, marking on their hulls indicates the manufacture in Russia.
In particular, at the end of January this year, during the OSCE forum, the Ukrainian delegation published information on the use by Russian armed groups in the Donbas of anti-personnel mines prohibited by international conventions.
During the presentation, examples of the use of ammunition MON-50, PMN-2, and POM-2 were given. The last two types in Ukraine have been completely destroyed under international supervision. Russia has refused to sign the Ottawa Convention and continues to use PMN-2 and POM-2 during hostilities.
For example, in early May, in the area of responsibility of OTU “North” OOS observers of engineering reconnaissance recorded on video the fact of the occupation troops of the Russian Federation planted antipersonnel mines POM-2 with a portable set of mines. At the same time, before the installation, the enemy washed all the numbers from the ammunition so that it was impossible to establish their origin.
Decades for a cleaning
Meanwhile, all participants in the talks on a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbas confirm that there are no significant changes in the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the Paris Communiqué, and the decisions of the Tripartite Contact Group in Minsk. According to informed sources, that is why the deputy head of the administration of the President of Russia Dmitry Kozak, who takes care of the Ukrainian issue in the Kremlin, was summoned to Berlin. In the German capital, he discussed the conflict in eastern Ukraine with aides to the German chancellor. The Russian official called the consultations in Berlin “constructive” and said that “agreements on mutual further action have been reached.”
Dry diplomatic wording explains little to ordinary people who expect the peace process to intensify. Because while negotiations and consultations are going on, Russia is sending echelons of ammunition to Donbas (it is much cheaper than disposing of obsolete samples at home), and its mercenaries are planting Ukrainian land with mines and explosives. Thus, the fertile land becomes a dead zone, where for decades it will be dangerous not only to engage in agriculture but also just to walk. After all, according to the UN, one year of hostilities leads to 10 years of demining.