Demining Ukraine: Bringing life-saving expertise home

“People are suffering a lot because of landmines,” Mr. Lobov said. UN Newsadded that experts have reported that nearly a third of the country is contaminated by unexploded ordnance.

“Many adults and children have died,” he said. “We have the highest rate of such loss in the world. Nobody knows what will happen in a few months because the war is not over yet.”

New level of complexity

Explosives were scattered over an area twice the size of Austria, putting 14 million Ukrainians at risk. UNDPwhich reported that these deadly weapons had killed 226 people, including 17 children.

Mr. Lobov said that while more than 366,000 landmines have been cleared, securing Ukraine is a difficult and very expensive long-term prospect.

The World Bank estimates that a full demining package will cost more than $37 billion. Ukraine cannot solve such a problem alone, so international partners are helping, with UNDP becoming the lead mine action coordinator in the country.

UNDP in Ukraine / A. Ratushniak The wreckage of just 40 settlements in the Kyiv region, where the fighting took place, is so massive that it could pave the way from the capital of Ukraine to Berlin.

Since World Wars I and II, the Government of Ukraine has managed the risks associated with unexploded ordnance, but full-scale war is now a whole new level of complexity, according to UNDP.

Open new approach

Tackling this challenge requires new equipment, tools, skills, and support in coordinating efforts, Mr. Lobov said.

For its part, UNDP is taking up the challenge as well as supporting victims and conducting information campaigns, with funding from the European Union and Croatia, Denmark, France, Japan and the United Kingdom.

“In the context of hostilities, a lot of ammunition does not explode,” Lobov said. “If the fighting continued for an hour or two, there could be several thousand rounds. If this is not two hours, but a day, a month, or if hostilities continue for many years, then we can only imagine how much ammunition our land will be contaminated with.”

Explosives in Ukraine are scattered over an area twice the size of Austria.

UNDP in Ukraine/Alexander Ratushnyak

Explosives in Ukraine are scattered over an area twice the size of Austria.

Troubled Ruins

Mr. Lobov said one of the important tasks of mine action operations is to remove debris. According to the UNDP, in just 40 settlements in the Kyiv region where fighting has occurred, the rubble could pave the way from Ukraine’s capital to Berlin.

While the actual volume is not known, Mr. Lobov said, after its removal, all hazardous waste must be disposed of and disposed of safely.

Normally, 30 to 50 percent of unexploded ordnance doesn’t explode, but the rest remains active, with any physical impact likely to cause an explosion, Mr. Lobov said.

Notice to everyone

Lobov said mine action was not limited to physical clearance, stressing that a new set of measures was needed.

“Many people in Ukraine still don’t realize how serious this problem is,” he said. “One of the most important tasks is to inform the people. It is necessary to teach people how to behave in territories contaminated with mines and explosives.”

For example, while demining operations have been conducted in eastern Ukraine since the Russian invasion in 2014, information campaigns should now target residents of the eastern regions. westerners, people who are overseas or refugees, he said.

New mine action culture

Mine action should become Ukrainian culture “because it will last for decades,” Mr. Lobov said.

“The descendants of our generation will have to face this problem,” he said. “We need to impart this knowledge to children through the education system and to adults, for example, through businesses where people work.”

The main message should become “the norm”, Mr. Lobov said: “Stay away! Do not touch! Call 101! State Emergency Services will respond immediately.”

Teaching safety instructions should have a positive impact without using shocking photographs, he said, because a person can panic when they realize what danger is right next to them.

To transfer knowledge about mine action, he taught school psychologists how to convey this information to children in a positive way. Information about mine action should simply form the basis of a culture of behavior, such as simply crossing the street at a green light, he said.

Alexander Lobov inspects buildings to determine if emergency services need to be called or if demolition can be started.

Alexander Lobov inspects buildings to determine if emergency services need to be called or if demolition can be started.

difficult choice

The first priority is the safety of the people, but another consequence of widespread landmine contamination threatens Ukraine’s economy and its access to vital resources.

This, he said, leads to difficult choices about priorities due to limited resources and high costs of demining.

When defending the agricultural industry, for example, he said deminers may notice a power line in the field. Since the country depends on this source of electricity, paying attention to the power lines has become a priority, he explained.

New realities enable new approaches

The new reality requires new approaches, said Mr. Lobov, while highlighting optimized processes for capturing unexploded ordnance.

For the first time, deminers are cordoning off rarely used areas. He said the search mechanisms are also being improved, including the use of mechanical detectors and systems involving mice, which are more sensitive than dogs.

For now, Ukraine will have to build its own system and map out a long-term strategy, according to UNDP, which is continuing with experts like Mr. Lobov, to help the country solve its bomb disposal problem. mines even when the war is still going on.

Debris from just 40 settlements in the Kyiv area, where the fighting took place, is so massive it could span a road from Ukraine's capital to Berlin.

UNDP in Ukraine / Alexander Ratushnyak

Debris from just 40 settlements in the Kyiv area, where the fighting took place, is so massive it could span a road from Ukraine’s capital to Berlin.


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