Following Russia’s temporary retreat to replenish supplies and arrange their battle plan to attack the Donbas region, Ukrainian officials have discovered that the Russian forces had booby-trapped dead bodies with explosives. This was done in order to kill unsuspecting Ukrainians who would move the dead bodies to get them proper funerals. These booby traps were also found hidden in houses, washing machines, and car trunks aside from the dead bodies.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement uploaded last April 4, considered the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, over 30,000 square miles (80,000 square kilometers) of Ukrainian soil were dotted with mines. A large majority of these mines were reported to be POM-3 Medallions.

These POM-3s are equipped with seismic sensors that enable them to detect an approaching person. Upon detection, it ejects an explosive charge into the air, killing or injuring anybody within a 16-meter radius of the blast.

POM-3 antipersonnel mines which reportedly failed to deploy, found in the Kharkiv region (Human Rights Watch). Source:
POM-3 antipersonnel mines, which reportedly failed to deploy found in the Kharkiv region (Human Rights Watch).

“The Russian Federation is in war not only with the Ukrainian Armed Forces but also fights against the civilian population of Ukraine, grossly violating the Law of war. While retreating, Russia’s military personnel is massively setting up booby-traps, banned by the international law, even on food facilities, private housing, and human corpses,” the statement read.

Furthermore, the Ukrainians claimed that the Russians were also booby-trapping children’s toys and shiny objects to attract children to pick them up. There is no evidence of this claim, however.  However, in the Afghan War, the Russians sprinkled thousands of PMF-1 mines, made of green or tan plastic that were palm-sized and maimed thousands of children in the country because their shape and size attracted the notice of children who mistook them for toys. These mines were sown on trails and paths commonly used by civilians.

These booby-trapped dead bodies and other booby-trapped objects were found throughout the warzones in Ukraine. However, they were mostly found in Kyiv Oblast, Kharkiv, and Mariupol.

It should be noted that there is an international policy that bans the use of anti-personnel mines. This is the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, otherwise known as the Ottawa Convention or the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty.

It stipulates that countries should never use, under any circumstances, anti-personnel mines and never develop, produce, acquire and stockpile the explosives. Each state is also required to destroy all anti-personnel mines in accordance with the convention.

Russia is not a country that has joined the treaty.

One such instance of booby-trapping comes from a report by The New York Times. A Ukrainian driver named Oleg Naumenko, from the village of Hoholiv, some 40 miles outside Kyiv, wanted to repair a car as his neighbors saw an abandoned vehicle. When he opened the trunk of the abandoned car, it suddenly exploded. This killed him instantly.

His wife, who was in Poland as she fled with their 7-year-old son, learned of her husband’s death the next day.

This incident was reported by the Kyiv Regional Police through their Facebook account. Along with the incident, they warned Ukrainians not to touch objects that have not been deemed safe by experts. However, this would be difficult given the large number of areas they need to cover.

According to residents and Ukrainian authorities, the Russians laced their land with buried land mines and rigged bombs. This has prevented the Ukrainians from exploring what was left of their homes due to fears that infrastructure might be rigged with explosives.

Evidence from open source data collectors has confirmed this Russian tactic. A tweet from OSINTtechnical revealed that a door was rigged with a Russian F-1 grenade so that when Ukrainians would open it, the grenade would explode.

The Ukrainian emergency services agency has reportedly deployed some 550 mine specialists to clear areas determined to be heavily mined. It was reported that about 6,000 explosives were being removed daily. They also reported that they have found over 54,000 explosive devices since the war started on February 24.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky claimed that there were tripwires found anywhere the Russian forces stayed overnight. More so, explosives were also found under helmets, in addition to being rigged on doors and corpses.

The Russians using land mines and booby-trapping objects are not new tactics. The Human Rights Watch reported that the Russians had used anti-personnel mines in 30 countries, many of which were in conflicts they intervened in. This includes Syria and Libya and Afghanistan.

“Leaving behind little presents for the civilians when they return — like hand grenades, tripwires, unexploded shells, pressure plates — it’s in the Russian military tradition to do that,” Senior Arms Researcher for the Human Rights Watch Mark Hiznay said to the Indian Express. “We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again.”