Ukraine is fast becoming the biggest minefield on the planet.  But the use of mines on the battlefield often gets short shrift when it comes to attracting attention, something not particularly surprising because with few exceptions, mines are static devices and not often responsible for the sort of instant gratification footage so common in an era of social media.  Nowhere is this more readily observed than in the Russian-Ukraine war, which is about to mark its one-year anniversary since Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a major invasion of Ukraine, something Putin euphemistically but steadfastly refers to as a “special military operation.”

While military action often takes center stage, another type of war is going on in Ukraine being “fought” by personnel from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, (Ukrainian: Державна служба України з надзвичайних ситуацій – ДСНС) known in English by the initials DSNS.  These professionals encounter mines, booby traps, and unexploded ordnance at a staggering rate, and they are paying for it with their lives.


DSNS Deminers

Mines – History and Law

Anti-Personnel landmines (APLs), are one of two basic categories of mines, the other being anti-vehicle mines, but the use of land mines actually dates to the Civil War, and is credited to Confederate General Gabriel J. Raines, who used them to defend positions in the Battle of Yorktown in 1862, even patenting the device.  In WWI, usage expanded greatly and the rest, as they say, is history.

The well-regarded non-governmental organization HALO Trust estimates that as of December 2018, “60 states and territories were known to be affected by landmines,” with the most severely impacted countries including Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq, Libya, Sri Lanka, Syria, Yemen and Zimbabwe. Although the war is still ongoing, Ukraine will surely join that list. Indeed, HALO Trust is already actively engaged in demining work in Donetsk and Luhansk.

For its part, recognizing the carnage caused by the use of mines, the U.S. has pledged $89 million in demining aid for Ukraine, a figure that is sure to rise the longer the conflict endures. U.S. Department of State (DoS) funds (which will not go directly to the government of Ukraine) will help fund, train, and equip approximately 100 de-mining teams over the next year according to a recent DoS release, as broadcast by Voice of America.

Current U.S. policy is not to use so-called persistent landmines, which effectively means a U.S. commitment to avoid mines that do not incorporate self-destruct and self-deactivation features.