US announces $89 million to help Ukraine clear landmines

“As Russian forces retreated from northern Ukraine, they had booby traps and improvised explosive devices in food facilities, car trunks, washing machines, doors, hospital beds and even bodies of those killed by the invasion,” the official said, describing how they “deliberately hid explosives in shiny toys and objects that attract children’s attention.”

The official gave an example in which Russian soldiers placed a grenade in the piano of a 10-year-old girl. The girl’s family called Ukrainian authorities after the mother “realized that some of the keys weren’t playing notes”, the official said.

“The fact that Russian soldiers decided to booby-trap specific objects speaks volumes,” the official said, comparing the “horrible” use of such devices by Russian forces to the tactics of Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and in Syria.

The Ukrainian government estimates that 160,000 square kilometers of land could be “contaminated” with landmines and other unexploded devices – an area roughly the size of Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut combined. The area includes much of Ukraine’s agricultural land, the official said.

The official did not specify where the training would take place, noting that the administration is working with the Ukrainian government to identify a site for this purpose. No US government personnel will be in Ukraine to provide training or actually approve an order, although they may be sent to ensure the funding is used as intended, the person said.

The effort does not target sea mines that make crossing the Black Sea a dangerous journey, threatening commercial vessels currently ferrying grain out of Ukraine, the person said. This is an entirely separate problem that requires specialized ships and crews that are not available to civilian operators.

The money will also not go directly to the Ukrainian government, but rather to non-governmental organizations for demining teams on the ground and contractors who will provide the necessary training and equipment.

Along with the clearance effort, the U.S. military is supplying Ukraine with anti-personnel Claymore munitions, which in some configuration are considered landmines under the Ottawa Treaty. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden pledged to limit the use of antipersonnel landmines in most places around the world, reversing a Trump-era policy expansion.

The State Department official said the Claymore ammunition supplied to Ukraine was configured so that a “person in the know” would physically trigger the ammunition, rather than using a tripwire. In this configuration, the munitions are not considered landmines, the person clarified.

Experts believe massive amounts of unexploded ordnance will remain in the ground in Ukraine for years to come, the official said.

“We expect this to be one of the biggest landmine and unexploded ordnance challenges in decades,” the official said. The fact that the Russian invasion also created the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II highlights the urgency of clearing populated areas before nearly 13 million Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people can return home. .


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