Ukrainian deminers remove deadly threats to civilians

HRAKOVE (UKRAINE): Next to an abandoned Russian military camp in the east Ukrainethe body of a man was decomposing on the grass – a civilian who fell victim to a hologram mined by retreating Russian forces.
Nearby, a Ukrainian demining team along with the country’s territorial defense force worked to clear the area with dozens of other deadly landmines and unexploded ordnance – an effort to restore security for cities, towns, and the countryside in an area that has gone through many months. Russian occupation.
Minebreakers, part of the 113th Kharkiv The Self-Defense Brigade of Ukraine’s territorial defense force on Thursday went deep into abandoned farmland along a muddy road among overgrown fields of dead sunflowers.
Two soldiers, each with a metal detector in hand, slowly made their way up the road, scanning the ground and waiting for the devices to signal. When a detector makes a high-pitched sound, a soldier kneels to inspect the mud and grass, probing it with a metal rod to see what might be buried just below the surface.
The blow of the detector could indicate a used cartridge case, a piece of rusted iron or a discarded aluminum can. Or, it could be an active land mine.
Oleksii DokuchaevThe commander of the demining brigade based in the eastern Kharkiv region, said hundreds of landmines have been dropped in the area around the village of Hrakove where they are working, but the danger of mines across Ukraine will remain. for many years to come. .
“One year of war equals 10 years of demining,” said Dokuchaev. “Even now we are still finding bombs and bullets from the Second World War, and in this war they are being planted on the left and right.”
Russian forces rushed to flee the Kharkiv area in early September after a swift counterattack by the Ukrainian army to recapture hundreds of square miles of territory after months of Russian occupation.
While many of the settlements in the area eventually gained some measure of safety after fierce battles left many of them in ruins, Russian land mines remained a threat. present in both urban and rural environments.
Small red signs with white skulls and crossbones line many roads in the Kharkiv region, warning of the risk of landmines exploding right on the sidewalks. Sometimes, however, desperation pushes local residents into minefields.
Mr. Dokuchaev said a local man whose body was located near an abandoned Russian camp was likely looking for food left behind by the invading soldiers.
The use of the three-legged mine that killed him is prohibited by the 1997 Ottawa Treaty – to which Russia is not a signatory – that regulates the use of anti-personnel mines, he said.
“There are rules of war. Ottawa Convention states that mines or any other ammunition with a tripod cord is not allowed. But the Russians ignore that,” he said.
Mine clearance officers cleared the anti-personnel mine the previous day, allowing them to search for anti-tank mines hidden in the ground that could destroy any vehicle passing through them.
They hope to get the vehicles deep enough into the area to retrieve an abandoned Russian armored personnel carrier, the engine of which they plan to salvage. Local police will also need a vehicle to arrive to retrieve the body.
Mine clearance officers had reached the abandoned camp, set in a grove of trees, and were littered with the remains of the months the Russians had spent there: rotting rations of food in a metal magazine. wood, large ammo cords, a pile of yellowed Russian newspapers, and a trench filled with garbage.
After a thorough search of the area, soldiers recovered two Soviet-made TM-62 anti-tank mines and six pneumatic detonators and placed them in a depression at the edge of the camp, glued to a bundle. along with 400 grams of TNT. .
Dokuchaev put an electric explosive device in the socket and connected it to a long piece of wire before hiding with his body at a distance of more than 100 meters.
When the detonator was detonated – what the attendants jokingly called “bada-boom” – a huge explosion tore through the air, causing a flurry of autumn leaves to fall from the surrounding trees and release a tall cloud of gray smoke. .
After the mines were destroyed, Dokuchaev – a former photographer who joined the territorial defense force after the outbreak of war – said the work his brigade was doing was necessary to keep the people safe. often when they pick up the pieces of their broken lives.
Despite the danger, he said, he enjoys his job.
“I don’t know what I will do after our victory,” Dokuchaev said. “Life would be boring without explosions.”


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