When the Russian army withdrew from northern Ukraine, they scattered landmines in the fields and left hand grenades and tripwires in people’s homes. More than 28,000 explosives have already been found. But more than 300,000 hectares around kyiv still need to be thoroughly checked. It is a dangerous process. An explosive ordinance is likely to maim or even kill anyone who steps on it. FRANCE 24 reports.
Ukrainian army specialists searching for explosives left behind by retreating Russian soldiers have their work cut out for them. Thousands of hectares of land must be meticulously controlled after Russian forces littered the Ukrainian countryside with landmines.
It doesn’t take long for them to find something hidden in the grass.
“It’s an 82 mm long mortar shell,” said Mykhailo Konopelniuk, the mine clearance supervisor for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. “With bombs like this, the Russians destroyed the bridge,” he adds. Some ammo here is too dangerous to remove by hand. An anti-tank mine must be safely detonated by the crew.
“The Russians did not distinguish between civilians and soldiers. They just wanted to cause damage,” says Konopelniuk. A few minutes later, their excavator detected several more shells just below the bridge. It is unclear if these explosives were meant to go off when Russian soldiers destroyed the bridge or if they were left deliberately. Either way, the threat to nearby villagers (and this team) is clear. “We take this risk because we are patriots. And we do it so that our country can prosper,” says excavator operator Serhiy Horbach.
These farmers had to flee intense fighting at the start of the war. Now they face a new threat to their land. “We found a mine 10 meters over there, and another one 20 meters over there. And two there,” says Volodymyr Oliynych, a farmer.
Farmers are among those most at risk from explosive devices. The government estimates that landmines could be present in as much as 30% of agricultural land around Kyiv.
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