Deadly Footprint: Landmines Killing Hundreds in Ukraine

The Ukraine war has left behind a lethal legacy in the form of landmines, which have killed and injured hundreds of civilians. Contamination by landmines is estimated to affect 174,000 square kilometres of land in Ukraine – an area larger than England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Anti-personnel “butterfly” mines, which are three to four inches wide and propeller-shaped, are the most common in the area. They are banned by international law because of the indiscriminate way they can injure and kill civilians, but continue to be used in the war. Demining is ongoing, but dangerous, frustrating work, as the scale of the problem is so vast.

The Kharkiv region, close to the Russian border, has been both occupied and liberated during the war, and has suffered particularly badly from landmines. In September 2022, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive against Russia, which led to the latter deploying landmines to both defend their positions and slow down the Ukrainians. The Russians left in a rush, leaving behind a lethal footprint. Since September, 121 civilians have been injured in the Kharkiv region alone, and 29 have been killed. More than 55,000 explosives have been found in the area.

According to Ukraine’s economy ministry, 724 people have been blown up by mines since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February last year, with 226 of them being killed. Human Rights Watch has accused both sides of using illegal antipersonnel mines, but Kyiv has responded by saying it followed international law while defending itself. The World Bank estimates that demining Ukraine is going to cost $37.4bn, and Kyiv is trying to convince as many countries as possible to contribute to this cause. The cost of inaction, however, is likely to be even higher, with lives being lost or destroyed in an instant, and entire regions left uninhabitable due to landmines.

Source: BBC