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Ukraine war: How hidden landmines, tripwires and booby traps pose lethal danger for years to come | World News

After years of bloody conflict, the ravaged Ukrainian landscape is riddled with anti-personnel mines, a deadly threat to civilians that will persist long after the end of the war.

According to one estimate, more than 40% of the country’s territory is mined, which is why Ukraine is now considered the most mined country in the world.

Newly liberated cities may remain dangerous long after the last Russian forces have been driven out, and Ukrainian defenders are discovering trip wires and booby traps, as well as anti-tank explosives ready to detonate.

“The pollution is huge,” Caterina Templeton of the Mining Advisory Group tells Sky News.

“It is not even comparable, I would say, with Syria or Afghanistan. It’s really big.”

International law prohibits and restricts the use of various mines, especially those designed to kill people.

Human Rights Watch accused Russian troops of using banned anti-personnel mines in eastern Kharkiv region.

A wide range of mines are deployed in Ukraine, including some that have never been used in combat before.

Ms. Templeton continued: “You will see anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines, booby traps, you will see a lot of unexploded ordnance, you will see cluster munitions.

“Everything you can think of, you will see in Ukraine.”

Unexploded ordnance and landmines are seen on a main road in Kherson, Ukraine November 16, 2022.  REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Unexploded ordnance and land mines are seen along the main road to Kherson in November 2022.

Huge rise in mine-related casualties since February 2022 invasion

According to Human Rights Watch, some anti-personnel mines in Ukraine were planted prior to February 2022, when Russian-backed forces in Donetsk and Luhansk used various devices in 2014-2015 and occasionally thereafter.

Most recently, Russian forces set up victim-activated booby traps as they retreated from cities they occupied in the first weeks of a full-scale invasion.

According to MAG, in the six years from 2014 to 2020, 1,190 people were affected by mines in Ukraine.

Between February 24, 2022 and January 10, 2023 – less than one year – 611 mine-related casualties are known.

After one incident two Ukrainian soldiers who underwent amputation were equipped with modern bionic arms made in the UK.

In addition to directly causing injury and death, mines can make areas of land inaccessible or more dangerous.

Agricultural production is reportedly affected by the use of landmines in fields and on rural trails and roads.

A mural painted by artist Oleksiy Postulga in September 2022 in Makarov, Kyiv region, to help raise public awareness of the threats posed by mines and unexploded ordnance.  Rice: MAG
A mural in Markarevo, Kyiv region, by artist Alexei Postulga for MAG in an attempt to raise awareness of the threats posed by mines. Rice: MAG

Post-war cleanup will take years

Ms Templeton says the MAG is not focusing on investigating which side is planting the mines, instead they are trying to make sure the parties are not using banned anti-personnel mines and looking for ways to clean up contaminated land so people can live a safer life.

The organization began its response by sending a team in April 2022 and began working with local partners.

Ukrainians will be trained in mine clearance under the guidance of MAG experts.

But given that in some areas the conflict has been going on for almost a decade, decontaminating every inch of Ukrainian land will be a painstaking and deadly process that will take many years.

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