Russia-Ukraine international armed conflict: Under snow and ice, landmines and unexploded ordnance pose deadly danger to civilians
"Mines and unexploded ordnance lurk in farmland and neighborhoods, each holding the potential to destroy lives," said Ariane Bauer, the regional director for Eurasia at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "Mines must not be used, and we appeal to the parties to the conflict to mark and clear the contaminated areas as soon as possible and inform civilians of the dangers."
While mines and unexploded ordnances have been a long-standing danger in this region, the risk they pose has increased exponentially since February.
More land has become littered with landmines, artillery shells, grenades, mortars, rockets, air-dropped bombs, and cluster munitions, many of which fail to detonate but remain a risk to civilians.
Swathes of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were already heavily contaminated with unexploded ordnance following eight years of conflict. The winter season now compounds the long-term dangers that civilians are facing.
The misery and destruction inflicted by such hidden threats are immense. Blasts can be fatal or cause injuries such as blindness, burns, damaged limbs, and deep shrapnel wounds. In addition to the loss of life and injury, unexploded ordnance frequently hinders or prevents access to essential services like hospitals or they make repairs to water and power facilities unsafe or prolonged.
Even before February, Ukraine was home to ICRC's largest weapons contamination team. Today 18 ICRC weapons contamination specialists are helping mark and clear areas with unexploded ordnance and are sharing mine safety information with communities and municipal workers. The ICRC is also helping repair damaged homes and essential infrastructure like water and electricity systems and supporting over one million people with heating.
The 25th anniversary of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention is Sunday (4 December). The risks these weapons still pose to civilians underscore there is still a long way to go to reach the Convention's goal of a mine-free world by 2025.