Ukrainian minesweepers remove deadly threats to civilians. WGN Radio 720

HRAKOVE, Ukraine (AP) — A man’s body lies rotting in the grass beside an abandoned Russian military camp in eastern Ukraine — victim of a tripwire mine planted by retreating Russian forces. I became a civilian.

Nearby, a group of Ukrainian minesweepers, along with the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, worked to clear dozens of other deadly mines and unexploded ordnance. Russian occupation.

Mine-clearers, part of the 113th Kharkov Defense Brigade of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force, cleared uncultivated farmland along a muddy road between fields of dead sunflowers overgrown with tall weeds on Thursday. I walked deep into the

Two soldiers with metal detectors slowly made their way down the road, scanning the ground and waiting for the device to emit a signal. When one detector blew a high pitch, a soldier would kneel down and examine the dirt and grass, examining it with a metal rod to see what might be buried just below the surface.

Detector hits could indicate spent cartridge cases, rusty pieces of iron, or discarded aluminum cans. Or it could be an active mine.

Oleksiy Dokuchayev, commander of the minesweeper brigade based in the eastern region of Kharkov, said that while hundreds of mines have already been cleared in the area around the village of Hulakove, where they worked, the danger of mines all over Ukraine. Sex will last for years, he said. come.

“One year of war equals ten years of demining,” Dokuchaev said. “Even now World War II ammunition is being found, and in this war they are planted left and right.”

Russian forces hastily fled the Kharkov area in early September after a rapid counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces recaptured hundreds of square miles of territory following months of Russian occupation.

Many settlements in the region eventually achieved some degree of security after heavy fighting reduced many to rubble, but Russian landmines are a constant presence in both urban and rural settings. remains a threat.

Many roads in the Kharkiv area are lined with small red signs with white skulls and crossbones to warn of the danger of land mines just off the sidewalk. But sometimes desperation drives locals into a minefield.

A local man whose body lay near an abandoned Russian camp was likely looking for food left behind by the invading forces, Dokuchaev said.

He said the use of the tripwire mine of the kind that killed him is prohibited under the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, which Russia has not signed, regulating the use of anti-personnel mines.

“War has rules. The Ottawa Treaty bans tripwire placement of mines and other ammunition. But the Russians ignore it,” he said.

Deminers cleared the roads of anti-personnel mines the day before, looking for anti-tank mines hidden under the ground so that vehicles driving over them could be destroyed.

They hoped to bring the vehicle deep enough to recover an abandoned Russian armored personnel carrier. The local police will also need to bring in a vehicle to retrieve the bodies.

The minesweeper arrived at an abandoned camp, among the trees, strewn with the wreckage of the months Russian soldiers had spent there. Rotten food in a wooden ammunition box, a series of high-caliber bullets, piles of yellowed Russian newspapers, trenches filled with garbage.

After thoroughly scanning the area, soldiers recovered two Soviet-made TM-62 anti-tank mines and six pneumatically armed fuzes, placed them in a pit at the edge of the camp, along with 400 grams of TNT. bundled with tape. .

Dokuchaev placed an electric detonator in the explosive charge, connected it to a long wire, and then hid himself from his men at a distance of more than 100 meters (yards).

When the explosives detonated, servicemen laughingly called them “Badaboom,” a huge blast ripped through the air, causing cascades of autumn leaves to fall from the surrounding trees and releasing a tall plume of gray smoke.

Dokuchaev, a former photographer who enlisted in the Territorial Defense Forces after the outbreak of war after a mine was destroyed, says the job his brigade is doing is picking up pieces of shattered lives to keep civilians safe. said it was essential for

Despite the danger, he said he enjoyed his job.

Dokuchaev said: “I don’t know what I will do after the victory. ‘Life without explosions is boring.’


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: Ukrainian minesweepers remove deadly threats to civilians. WGN Radio 720

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