Once Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is over, Ukraine will need to rebuild. But no reconstruction can succeed there until Ukraine rids itself of the thousands of landmines and unexploded ordnance sown over some 160,000 square kilometers, or one quarter of Ukrainian territory by Russia’s invading forces.
Over the course of the year, Ukraine, until recently the region’s breadbasket and one of the world’s premiere exporters of grain and sunflowers, saw its agricultural output plummet as Russia prodigiously mined its once-fertile fields and agricultural installations.
Similarly, explosives were also deliberately staged to kill and maim civilians. In the words of Michael Tirre, Program Manager from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs:
“We know that Russia’s forces have deliberately booby-trapped objects in people’s homes, including children’s toys, and even the bodies of people killed by the invasion. The horrific use of improvised explosive devices by Russia’s forces is reminiscent of ISIS tactics in Iraq and Syria, where ISIS terrorists sought to inflict as many civilian casualties as possible and make people afraid to return home.”
It is therefore no surprise that demining is one of the Ukrainian government’s top priorities. The vast majority of this dangerous work is already being done by the operatives of a number of Ukraine’s state services.
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. Most recently, the U.S. Department of State has allocated 91.5 million dollars to Ukraine for further demining efforts.
“As incredible as the Government of Ukraine’s efforts have already been, the sheer magnitude of explosive hazard contamination is overwhelming,” said Mr. Tirre. “The 91.5 million dollars in assistance we’re providing over the coming year is designed to strengthen and supplement Ukraine’s national capacity in the recognition that this effort has been, and always will be, led by Ukraine.”
The cleanup of Russia’s mines and unexploded ordnance will take many years and a well-coordinated international response. The United States is dedicated to supporting efforts to help the people of Ukraine rebuild and resume their lives.