US will Spend $89 Million to Eradicate Russian Landmines in Ukraine

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The U.S. Will Spend $89M To Eradicate Russian Landmines in Ukraine

One hundred demining teams will work over the next year to clear the areas Russia held

BY JACQUELINE FELDSCHER

SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT

August 9, 2022, 02:45 PM ET

The U.S. State Department will pay $89 million to help rid Ukraine of dangerous landmines hidden by retreating Russian troops, a State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.

Russian forces have reportedly booby trapped everything from cars to washing machines to dead bodies with explosives designed to seriously injure or kill civilians who discover them. In May, Russian troops placed explosives in a 10-year-old girl’s piano in Bucha, showing that they are deliberately targeting civilians, the official said.

The $89 million will pay for 100 demining teams to work in Ukraine for the next year, the official said. It will also fund training and equipment for Ukrainian teams, but will not address concerns about sea mines in the Black Sea.

No American government personnel will be on the ground in Ukraine, the official said. The money will be given to non-governmental organizations to field the demining teams and to contractors who can train and equip locals, not directly to the Ukrainian government.

Ukrainian officials estimate 160,000 square kilometers—about the size of Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut combined—may be contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance, the State Department official said. Much of that includes Ukrainian farm land, which further worsens global food security that was already impacted by the war, but it also includes populated areas, with more than 5 million people living near or among hidden explosives.

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Use of the weapons violates international humanitarian law because they pose a long-term threat and cannot differentiate between civilians and military personnel, according to a June report from Human Rights Watch.

It’s unclear how many people will be on the 100 demining teams, because the teams can vary in size depending on their mission, the official said. Some teams that travel between communities to ask locals what they are seeing and identify possible landmine locations can have just two or three people, while more technical teams using machinery or metal detectors to clear mines can be a dozen people.

The money, which will be distributed over a period of “several months,” is coming from three sources, the official said. The fiscal 2022 appropriations bill included $6 million for humanitarian demining assistance in Ukraine. In addition, the first and second Ukrainian supplemental funding bills included $18 million and $65 million respectively for demining operations.