Since the beginning of its illegal attack on Ukraine over a year ago, Russia has been seeding the Ukrainian countryside and towns with landmines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices.
According to the ”To Walk the Earth In Safety” report, issued on April 4 by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, “landmines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices, which block access to farmland, impede reconstruction efforts, prevent displaced families from returning to their homes, and continue to kill and maim innocent Ukrainian civilians.”
“It's a huge problem,” said Karen Chandler, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Programs and Operations in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. “The government of Ukraine estimates that approximately one third of the entire land mass in Ukraine is contaminated at this point. And that also includes about 10 percent of their agricultural land. So that is a direct impact on food security worldwide, because if farmers can't farm their land in Ukraine, then that impacts the grain supply worldwide.”
The United States has been supporting Ukraine’s demining efforts since 2016. U.S. experts have been advising Ukrainian authorities, training, and equipping government demining teams, and also funding international non-governmental organizations to demine along the line of contact in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.
Today, the demining of Ukraine is the U.S. Government’s largest such project. “We were able to fund Ukraine clearance operations at about $90 million this year,” said Ms. Chandler. Working through partners like Tetra Tech Incorporated, the U.S. government is cooperating with the government of Ukraine to train and equip up to about 100 new de-mining teams.
“With these additional 100 teams, they would be able to cover a much greater clearance effort. The training for that is still under way,” she said. “We've spent the winter building up that training facility and working with the government of Ukraine to help them develop the processes and the administrative requirements to be able to send tasks out to all of these different demining teams to make sure that there's no duplication of effort, that all of the teams would be able to cover the countryside as efficiently as possible.”
“When people are allowed to return to their communities, life can start to go back to normal”, said Ms. Chandler. “And we see development starting to take place again with critical infrastructure that we're working on clearing in Ukraine.”