NGOs warn of Ukraine landmine crisis 

NGOs warn of Ukraine landmine crisis 

Lisichansk. Source: Wikimedia

Although the fighting in Lisichansk is over, the war’s impact can be seen in the bullet-scarred buildings on the city’s suburbs.

The conflict in Ukraine has claimed an estimated 10,000 lives. Pans are now under way to establish a national mine-action authority.

Marcus Brand of the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine estimated that 1,400 people had been killed by landmines, booby traps or unexploded ordinance since the fighting began in 2014. Around 40 per cent of those were assumed to be civilians, he said.

It is unknown how many mines, including the OZM-72 anti-personnel mine that is propelled into the air at waist height before exploding, and booby traps have been deployed.

The UK-based Halo Trust said that 97 mine-hazardous areas, totalling more than 1,000 hectares, had been drawn up, mostly outside the 15km buffer zone in the government-controlled areas. But this initial estimate of the area affected by mines is likely to be a huge underestimate.

“Until we have completed a comprehensive, non-technical survey of eastern Ukraine, we won’t know the full extent of ERW contamination or the resources required to tackle it,” said Halo Trust’s director in the country Yuri Shahramanyan.

While the conflict continues no survey will conducted as the location of mines provides a military operational advantage so de-mining is not a priority for either side.

“Due to the ongoing conflict, survey and clearance cannot happen everywhere,” Shahramanyan said. Initial clearance and surveying efforts have so far been limited to areas controlled by the Kiev government. De-mining groups have yet to be granted access to survey or de-mine the rebel-held Luhansk or Donbass regions.

In a sign that relations between Kiev and Moscow might be normalising, Ukraine said it was ready to join trilateral talks to discuss gas issues with Russia this Thursday in Brussels, according to Ukraine state energy company Naftogaz.

Ukraine has not bought gas directly from Russia since November last year. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is due to attend the talks.

The EU relies on Russia for about a third of its gas with more than half of that arriving through Ukraine, but the potential for disputes over pricing and other issues has accelerated since the start of conflict in 2014.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic has been working as a messenger between Russia and Ukraine in the gas dispute, trying to minimise the risk of gas supply interruptions to Europe, especially during the winter.


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