“It will take 50 years to clean everything up.” Ukraine predicts decades of mines in its territory – News

“It will take 50 years to clear everything,” says Perrine Benoist, Handicap International’s director of armed violence reduction, noting that “we are still clearing mines in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam 56 years later.”

“The casualties and injuries will continue long after the war ends,” says Steve Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch. “Cleaning everything takes years, if not decades,” he points out.

More than 300,000 square kilometers of Ukraine, about half of the country’s territory, are full of explosives, Oleh Bondar, director of the demining service and civil security in Ukraine, told AFP.

Such an area “includes the Donetsk region, the Luhansk region and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as the Black Sea and the Azov Sea,” according to Bondar.

He said demining services had removed more than 72,000 items since the start of the war, including more than 2,000 bombs of various caliber, for a total of 130,000 km2. Currently, efforts are focused on the Kiev region.

Before the war, which began on February 24, only 8% of Ukraine’s territory was considered contaminated, according to the Mine and Cluster Bomb Observatory. “The country is facing historical pollution,” Benoist emphasizes.

In recent weeks, AFP journalists have seen numerous unexploded ordnance spread to the streets of northeastern and northwestern Kiev cities, abandoned or lost during Russia’s withdrawal.

Demining in Ukraine is not a high-tech process: it requires rudimentary tools and steel nerves.

It is made with a mine detector and a long, sharp stick. After this, the mine is slowly dug with a shovel, lifted from the ground with a hook, the igniter is removed and the device is added to the Ukrainian arsenal.

According to Perrine Benoist, explosives are usually installed in urban areas where there are more civilians who will be victims for years. “We have had complex fractures, amputations, or even inhalation burns due to the toxicity of the smoke from the explosions,” Benoist said before clarifying that this contamination made it difficult to access humanitarian aid.

According to Human Rights Watch, Russian POM-3 anti-personnel mines have been used in this conflict. These mines, first discovered by Ukrainian sapers on March 28, “could indiscriminately kill and injure anyone within a 16-meter radius,” the NGO explained in a report.

For Steve Goose, mines and other explosives are “also a huge socio-economic burden, as they can prevent people from returning to their homes, returning to their fields, etc.”.

The 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of these weapons. Unlike Ukraine, Russia is not one of the 164 signatory countries.

“The most worrying thing is to see countries like the United States say that these weapons could be useful in neutralizing the movements of Russian forces,” Perrine Benoist asked.

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