In the year and a half of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s minefields have grown to the size of Uruguay or the state of Florida. Ukraine is now the most mined country in the world, The Washington Post reports. A problem is even more serious than in countries such as Afghanistan and Syria.
Greg Crowther, director of programs at Mines Advisory Group, a British charity that works on mine clearance around the world, called the situation in Ukraine the most serious in 30 years. According to a report by the Slovak Globsek Policy Institute, more than 173,000 square kilometers in Ukraine require lengthy, costly and dangerous demining operations. This area represents about 30 percent of the country’s territory.
Between February 2022 and July 2023, the UN recorded 298 civilian mine victims, 22 of them children. Another 632 civilians were injured.
Russia has carefully mined its defensive lines in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive and is making much greater use of widely banned anti-personnel mines. Human Rights Watch research has found that Russian forces have used at least 13 types of anti-personnel mines, among them victim-activated trigger mines. There is evidence that Ukraine also used at least one type of anti-personnel mine, the PFM (“Lepestok”), in the vicinity of the city of Izyum in the summer of 2022.
Ukraine’s mined territory is so vast that some experts estimate that humanitarian demining will take about 757 years at the current rate of about 500 demining teams. Globsek estimates that one deminer can clear only 4.5 to 7.5 square meters of territory per day, depending on the terrain and concentration of explosives. Parallel to the work of official teams, a market of so-called “gray deminers” has developed, offering hasty and often unreliable clearance.
The United States has pledged to provide Ukraine with more than $95 million for demining, the State Department said. The World Bank estimates that demining Ukraine, which costs between $2 and $8 per square meter, will require $37.4 billion over the next 10 years.