It Could Take 757 Years to Reverse Effects of Land Mines in Ukraine

  • Ukrainian troops face a perilous challenge in their continued fight against Russia — land mines.
  • The mines have blighted an area of Ukraine roughly the size of Florida, per The Washington Post.
  • Humanitarian clearance work, which is intricate and expensive, can take a long time to complete.

More than a year and half after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, land mines have become one of the most daunting issues for the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

With Russian forces having laid down mines across broad areas of Ukraine, it is now the most mined country in the world, and the mines — in addition to unexploded bombs and artillery shells — are now prevalent in an area of Ukraine roughly the size of Florida, according to The Washington Post.

The drastic changes to the Ukrainian heartland not only threaten the country long-term, but they continue to present enormous challenges for troops seeking strategic advantages against Moscow, having had earlier successes against Russian forces before the mines began to slow down Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

While there are ongoing efforts to remove the mines, also referred to as unexploded ordnance, the full scope of the situation will likely be unknown for some time as the conflict continues. However, according to data already collected by the Ukrainian government and humanitarian mine clearance organizations, the direness of the situation may last for generations.

Greg Crowther, the director of programs for the Mines Advisory Group, a nongovernmental organization that aids individuals affected by land mines, told The Post that the mine situation in Ukraine was unlike anything seen in recent decades.

“The sheer quantity of ordnance in Ukraine is just unprecedented in the last 30 years. There’s nothing like it,” he told the newspaper. 

GLOBSEC, a global think tank, recently published a report revealing that about 30% of Ukraine, covering more than 67,000 square miles, had been subject to heavy fighting and would require thorough clearance operations. The report also detailed the lengths taken by Russian forces to make vast expanses of Ukrainian farmland either too difficult to navigate or effectively unusable.

“To date, the Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts remain the most contaminated regions of all the liberated territories, as Russian forces had been present there for a longer period of time,” the report says. “The nature of the demining challenge is different to the pre-Feb 2022 situation: First, fighting has been heavier and longer in duration; second, a far greater range of explosive ordnance has been deployed, and, finally, the area of potentially contaminated territory is 10 times greater.”

“Russian troops are infamously creative in leaving mine traps: They plant victim-activated devices on animals, dead bodies, as well as double and even triple booby traps on roads, fields, and forests,” the report continued. “It has been reported that the Russians have also deliberately targeted farming areas and agricultural land for contamination in order to deny its use for future economic activity in Ukraine.”

The humanitarian clearance work, which is intricate and expensive, can also take a long time to complete. Such efforts are being employed around Kyiv, the capital city, and parts of the country located west of the front lines.

But several experts told The Post that the amount of contaminated land in Ukraine is so massive that it could take close to 500 demining teams and 757 years to finish the work. And the World Bank estimated that the demining work could exceed $37 billion through 2033.

The mines have also had a major effect on deminers — the highly trained individuals who are tasked with clearing unexploded ordnance — as they are not immune from the harm caused by the mines and booby traps laid down by Russian forces.

Vladislav Sokolov, a deminer for the Ukrainian emergency service, told the newspaper that another deminer lost his leg last year while in Kramatorsk, a city in the Donbas region.

Sokolov then elaborated that he saw the deminer while convening with other ordnance removal workers and noted that his friend had to get a prosthetic leg and was “trying to learn to walk” once again.

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