Mined areas are a real danger to both the military and the civilian population. 2,202 people were killed and wounded by mines and explosives left in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts during the military conflict, according to Halo trust. 953 of these victims were civilians who were killed or injured while trying to cross the frontline, conducting agricultural works in the fields, picking mushrooms and berries in the woods or under other circumstances. The most common type of victims in Ukraine, according to the statistics, are males of working age.
“According to the Landmine monitor 2019 report, Ukraine ranked fifth in terms of the number of victims from mines and other explosive devices. And these are deeply depressing statistics, but I can’t help but note that the situation improves every year. If in 2016 there were 60 victims on average per month, this year it is eight people according to our statistics,” Marina Zozulyak, public relations manager of Halo trust Ukraine, says.
Mine action is a significant step towards rebuilding war-damaged communities. Ukraine is among the leaders in the number of victims from mine and explosives; we have 325 dead. “The main reasons for Ukraine’s sad leadership in the world rankings are the duration of the conflict (i.e. its incompleteness), the chaotic nature of its beginning, the initial zero awareness of local civilians about such a ‘silent danger’ and ignorance of basic rules for dealing with this potential danger. Nevertheless, the number of victims decreases every year. That became possible due to all the participants of the mine action sector in Ukraine. In particular, information and training about mine risks influenced a lot. Then, the constant slowdown in military activity had its impact as well. Collecting mushrooms, berries, bushes and walks in the woods also often ends in injuries. That does not mean that all our forests are now under threat. But the closer to the frontline, the greater danger exists,” Zozulyak states.
Explosive remnants of war prevent the safe return of people to their homes or areas where farmers work. Farmers are severely affected by landmines. Some of them lose access to 100% of their agricultural land due to contamination by explosives.
Today, 32 demining sites have been returned to their owners. Demining allows those who use the land as a means of subsistence, income or place of rest to return to their previous lives.
Ukraine has adopted International Mine Action Standards. UN officials note that the adoption of these standards is a significant step in consolidating the Government’s efforts to combat explosive threats. It is a package of 42 specifications, which contain a detailed description of demining procedures and requirements. These standards accumulate many years of international experience, which will help Ukrainian miners to minimise occupational risks.
With the introduction of international standards, Ukraine also received the right to provide them free of charge not only to the military but also to representatives of the Ministry of Emergencies, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, other agencies and organisations that need it.
The National Standardisation Body adopted these specifications at the instance of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine within the framework of harmonisation of Ukrainian standards with international ones.
In 2019, Ukraine adopted the Law “On Mine Action in Ukraine,” which enshrined the humanitarian demining concept, which is a set of planned measures to eliminate the danger associated with mines and explosives. It includes non-technical and technical inspections, territory marking, mapping and cleaning, document preparation after demining, information provision on mine action and transfer of the cleared territory.
A few international non-governmental organizations currently work on humanitarian demining in Ukraine: the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, HALO trust, the Danish Demining Group (DRC-DDG), and the Swiss Mine Action Fund (FSD).
“After the end of the armed conflict, demining, according to preliminary estimates, may take up to 10 years,” Oleksandr Chyzh, the head of mine action coordination group at the JFO Headquarters, said. Therefore, the demining issue for the sixth year of the military conflict and many years after the end of the war will remain relevant.
The story of the Svyatoslav and his wife’s injury
The war in Donbas does not weaken, and civilians continue to suffer. The story of Svyatoslav and his wife proves this directly. The family received mine injuries after the acute phase of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2016.
“In July 2016, my wife and I went to Lysychansk. We walked along the railway track between the village of Maryevka in the Luhansk region and the village of Rodyna, from the side of Pervomaisk. I tripped over a wire. It was an RGD-5 grenade, after which there was an explosion; we received numerous debris wounds.”
Svyatoslav was seriously injured. Doctors recorded an open, penetrating traumatic brain injury as well as a mild concussion with the presence of a foreign body in the left frontal lobe. He suffered numerous lacerations in the chest, left shoulder, and lower extremities. He also had a penetrating wound of the scrotum with the presence of a foreign body, and retinal vascular angiopathy of both eyes.
“At the time of the injury, I suffered significant physical pain, emotional stress, which was accompanied by feelings of confusion, resentment, humiliation, anxiety for my health and my wife’s life,” said the victim.
Four serious operations left him with lifelong consequences. Svyatoslav says that fragments of a grenade are still in the frontal part of the head and body.
Natalia Alyabieva, lawyer, candidate of legal sciences, OSCE / ODIHR Freelance Consultant