Ukrainian army specialists hunt for explosives left behind by Russian forces

Ukrainian army specialists hunt for explosives left behind by Russian forces

Politics


ON THE GROUND

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Ukrainian military specialists clearing mines left behind by Russian forces in the Ukrainian countryside.

Ukrainian military specialists clearing mines left behind by Russian forces in the Ukrainian countryside. © FRANCE 24

When the Russian army withdrew from northern Ukraine they scattered landmines across fields and left hand-grenades and trip wires in peoples’ homes. More than 28 thousand explosives have already been found. But over 300,000 hectares around Kyiv still need to be painstakingly checked. It is a dangerous process. Explosive ordinance is likely to maim, if not kill, anyone who steps on it. FRANCE 24’s  reports. 

Ukrainian army specialists hunting for explosives left by retreating Russian soldiers have their work cut out. Thousands of hectares of land need to be meticulously checked after Russian forces littered the Ukrainian countryside with landmines.

It isn’t long till they find something concealed in the grass.

“It is a mortar shell, 82 mm long,” says Mykhailo Konopelniuk, the De-mining Supervisor of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. “Using bombs like this, the Russians have destroyed the bridge”, he adds. Some of the ordnance here is too dangerous to remove by hand. One anti-tank mine must be detonated safely by the crew.

“The Russians didn’t discriminate between civilians and soldiers. They simply wanted to cause damage,” says Konopelniuk. Minutes later, their digger detects several more shells just under the bridge. It’s unclear if these explosives were supposed to detonate when Russian soldiers destroyed the bridge or if they were left deliberately. Either way – the threat to nearby villagers (and to this team) is clear. “We are taking this risk because we are patriots. And we do it so our country can flourish,” says Serhiy Horbach, a digger operator.

These farmers had to flee intense fighting at the start of the war. Now, they face a new menace on their lands. “We found one mine 10 metres over there, and another 20 metres over there. And two over there,” says Volodymyr Oliynych, a farmer. 

Farmers are among the most at risk from explosive ordnance. The government estimates that landmines could be present in as much as 30 percent of the farmland around Kyiv. 

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