Not only bombs and missiles, but also mines and unexploded ordnance pose a threat to the lives of the population in Ukraine. The risk will linger for years to come.
Before people can return to their homes and reconstruction can begin, cities, houses, roads and fields must be searched for explosive devices and cleared. The Geneva-based non-governmental demining group FSD (Fondation Suisse de Déminage) is helping the Ukrainian army with this. It is impossible to assess how littered with mines and unexploded ordnance Ukraine is at the moment, but the aftermaths of other conflicts suggest the problem will be huge.
Every year, children in particular are killed or maimed by remnants of explosive ordnance from past wars. These devices include anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, which have been knowingly laid by parties to a conflict, and also ammunition that has not exploded as intended. The “failure rate” can reach 25% and unexploded ordnance remains a threat after the fighting is over, sometimes even decades later.
Another source of danger for civilians are abandoned stockpiles – stocks of arms and ammunition that can cause accidental explosions. They can also be looted and used in the manufacture of improvised mines. FSD is active in demining, stockpile destruction, risk education and victim assistance.
Thousands of civilians are believed to have died in Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24. Most civilian casualties were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems and missiles and airstrikes. Both sides in the conflict are said to be using anti-tank mines.