In addition to the perils of all too frequent Russian air strikes, Ukrainians in many parts of the country also have to beware of land mines and other unexploded ordnance. According to the UN, since Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, over 300 civilian deaths and 700 injuries in Ukraine are attributed to accidents relating to such explosive devices. Also, extensive mining by the Russian armed forces in the fertile farmland of central Ukraine is having a substantially adverse impact on agricultural productivity, which impact is felt not only in Ukraine, but throughout the world, in the form of shortages and increased prices for food.
Ukraine is now the most heavily mined country in the world. Demining has been identified as one of the Government of Ukraine’s critical objectives in the short and long term. Estimates for clearing Ukraine of Russian mines and unexploded ordnance run into the of billions of dollars and will take decades to complete.
Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF) in partnership with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) are doing their part through their joint Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal fund, to help in this effort, with current participation in three humanitarian demining projects.
In a recently signed agreement, CUF will fund the Ukrainian Demining Association (UDA) in the execution of humanitarian demining in three distinct parts:
(1) Non-technical survey — the first important step toward land clearance — where UDA and its affiliate will survey agricultural land in the Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts and report findings to the National Mine Action Authority in Ukraine;
(2) Explosive Ordnance and Risk Education (EORE) will be undertaken in 8 regions of Ukraine to educate the public, and children in particular, on how to identify and avoid mine hazards, which have been strewn throughout large areas of Ukraine. This effort is expected to reach over 18,000 participants. Also, UDA will conduct a digital EORE campaign to reach a broader audience online;
(3) Mine Victim Assistance (MVA) will identify and assist needy victims of mine, missile or explosive ordnance injury through cash payments. Staff experienced in humanitarian assistance will identify and counsel mine victims and provide cash assistance for medical-related expenses.
In August, 2023, through the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, CUF and UCC purchased and arranged for the delivery of three mobile X-ray backscatter imagers to the National Police of Ukraine (NPU). The NPU has been very active in a variety of explosive ordnance disposal and humanitarian demining activities particularly in the de-occupied territories of Ukraine. One of its principal responsibilities is to clear public, commercial and residential buildings, abandoned vehicles and infrastructure installations from explosives planted by retreating Russian armed forces. The hand-held mobile backscatter units allow for imaging from one side of an object, such as a door or wall. This allows NPU technicians to scan for explosive devices more quickly, accurately and, importantly, more safely.
In 2022, three demining robots were purchased and delivered to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. These units are used for remote detection and clearance of mines and have been deployed in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions of Ukraine.