Ukraine war: How hidden landmines, tripwires and booby traps pose lethal danger for years to come | World News
After years of bloody conflict the scarred Ukrainian landscape is riddled with landmines, posing a deadly threat to civilians that will persist long after the war ends.
With more than 40% of the country contaminated with mines by one estimate, Ukraine is believed to now be the most mined country in the world.
Newly-liberated towns can remain dangerous long after the last Russian forces have been forced out, with Ukrainian defenders discovering tripwires and booby traps as well as anti-tank explosives ready to detonate.
“Contamination is massive,” Kateryna Templeton from the Mines Advisory Group tells Sky News.
“It’s not even comparable, I would say, to Syria or Afghanistan. It’s really massive.”
International law prohibits and restricts the use of various mines, particularly those designed to target people.
Russian forces have been accused by Human Rights Watch of using banned anti-personnel mines in the eastern Kharkiv region.
A broad spectrum of mines have been deployed in Ukraine including some that had never been seen in combat before.
Ms Templeton continued: “You will see anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines, booby traps, you will see lots of unexploded ordnance, you will see cluster munitions.
“Everything you can think of you will see in Ukraine.”
Huge rise in mine-related casualties since February 2022 invasion
Some landmines in Ukraine pre-date February 2022, with Russian-backed forces in Donetsk and Luhansk using various devices in 2014-2015 and sporadically in the following years, according to Human Rights Watch.
More recently, Russian forces have placed victim-activated booby traps as they retreated from towns they had occupied during the early weeks of the full-scale invasion.
According to MAG, in the six years between 2014 and 2020 there were 1,190 mine-related casualties in Ukraine.
Between 24 February, 2022 and 10 January, 2023 – less than one year – there have been 611 known mine-related casualties.
Following one incident, two Ukrainian soldiers who had amputations were fitted with state-of-the-art bionic arms made in the UK.
As well as directly causing injury and death, mines can render swathes of land inaccessible or more dangerous.
Agricultural production is reportedly being affected by the use of landmines in fields and on rural paths and roads.
Post-war clean-up to take years
Ms Templeton says that MAG do not focus on investigating which side is placing the mines, instead they try to make sure parties are not using banned anti-personnel mines and look for opportunities to clear contaminated land so that people can live safer lives.
The organisation started their response by sending in a team in April 2022 and began working with local partners.
Ukrainians will be trained on how to clean up mined areas, supervised by experts from MAG.
But with the conflict having gone on for nearly a decade in some areas, it will be a painstaking and deadly process taking many years to decontaminate every inch of Ukrainian soil.