The danger of landmines in eastern Ukraine

A demining machine in the Donetsk Oblast A demining machine in the Donetsk Oblast Photo by evgovorov on iStock

05 April 2021

The presence of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) threatens the lives of around two million people in eastern Ukraine

Since 2005, the 4th of April has been observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, established to raise awareness about the dangers posed by mines and ERW, to promote their eradication and provide adequate medical services to the victims. On International Mine Awareness Day 2021, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, has recalled the critical situation in eastern Ukraine, where about two million people are exposed to the threat of landmines and ERW.

As reported in the Landmine Monitor 2020 of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Ukraine ranks fifth in the world for civilian casualties from landmines and ERW while, based on data reported by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, the country ranks third for anti-vehicle landmine accidents. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported 1.190 verified casualties from mines and ERW while, in 2020 alone, 55 people were injured and 15 killed by such a type of explosive ordnance. However, the actual numbers of casualties could be much higher than those detected and reported. Meanwhile, violence in the Donbass has reignited in March, as clashes between the separatists in the Donetsk Oblast and the Ukrainian armed forces resulted in the death of four Ukrainian soldiers and, consequently, in the breach of the ceasefire established in July 2020.

In her statement, Ms. Lubrani has thanked the donors and humanitarian organizations that have contributed to the clearing operations, which, in 2020 alone, resulted in the restoration of 5.500 hectares of land. The Humanitarian Coordinator has, however, recalled that it might take a decade to clear the contaminated land in eastern Ukraine, and has called upon the Ukrainian Government to continue its work towards humanitarian mine clearance, urging it to establish a mine victim assistance program that is not limited to emergency medical aid, but provides continued medical care to mine survivors.

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Author: Carla Leonetti; Editor: Francesca Mencuccini

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