It is deceptive, the calm in the forest of Browary, says Mairi Cunningham of the Halo Trust. She was only there in the afternoon, she tells DW on the phone. “It’s an absolutely peaceful, green area in the north-east of Kyiv, where you don’t see any traces of the conflict. I felt like I was far away from the war in Ukraine.”
but dThere have been mines here since fierce fighting raged here at the end of March. The Ukrainian army was able to hold back the advance of Russian tanks on the capital Kyiv – the mines remained.
“The threat is pervasive and deadly,” says Cunningham, who directs the Ukraine program for the Halo Trust, the world’s largest landmine clearance agency. “Here in Brovary, we’ve already cleared some areas, so people are getting back to some degree of normalcy be able. But the scale of the problem is huge.”
The currently 480 employees of the Halo Trust work square by square meter with metal detectors, create maps, defuse mines and booby traps. Next year, the Halo Trust plans to employ 1,200 people in Ukraine.
“Our The Ukrainian team is extremely committed to advancing the country’s reconstruction, despite the ongoing war,” says Cunningham. But of course this work cannot take place without international support.
money from Germany
Financial help out Germany plays a key role in this, says Cunningham. A spokesman for the Foreign Office told DW that Germany has provided a total of 8.4 million euros for mine clearance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. The Halo Trust receives the largest chunk of it with six million euros. In addition, Handicap International and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are supported in mine clearance. The Foreign Office assumes that there will be a high need for support in the long term, the spokesman continued.
Only on September 10 did Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visits a minefield being cleared by the Halo Trust near Kyiv. “It is important that local life can continue here‘ Baerbock said.
The Russian army has “contaminated the suburbs of Kiev with mines,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Ukraine
Metal detectors are in short supply
The employees of the Ukrainian Deminers Association are also working on this. “Our deminers are currently deployed in the Bucha and Chernihiv regions,” he says Tymur Pistriuha on the phone. He heads the small NGO, which employs almost 20 deminers. He would like to hire more staff. “Every day I get applications from people who want to work as deminers.” But the means are limited.
He would like the German government to support not only large international organizations like the Halo Trust, but also small Ukrainian NGOs like his. He immediately has a concrete example ready: his deminers lack metal detectors – and excellent detectors are manufactured in Germany. He would like to have some of these or even robotic vehicles to defuse mines.
To illustrate how big the task is, send Tymur Pistriuha has another card: As of September 8, almost 139,000 square kilometers of land in Ukraine must be checked for mines, booby traps and the remains of unexploded ordnance. That is an area larger than Greece. Mines aren’t just found in fields and forests – Russian soldiers also booby-trapped front doors, washing machines and children’s toys.
humanitarian Organizations like the Ukrainian Deminers Association or the Halo Trust are clearing mines in areas where there is no longer fighting. Near the front, military units are responsible for mine clearance. Germany also wants to support Ukraine in this. To this end, around 20 Ukrainian soldiers are to come to the Bundeswehr’s explosive ordnance defense school in Stetten am Kalten Markt in southern Germany for training. According to Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD), the Bundeswehr also wants to make material available “so that Ukraine can wage this fight against this disgusting use of weapons, namely mines and booby traps”.
But wIt is not yet clear exactly what material the Bundeswehr is supplying. For security reasons, no details could be given, a spokesman for the army told DW. So far, the federal government only announced the delivery of four remote-controlled demining devices to Ukraine.
Can defuse mines with its gripping arm or cause them to explode in a controlled manner: Bundeswehr robot “Teodor”
This could be the remote-controlled robot “Teodor”. “Teodor” looks like a mini tank, no bigger than a shopping cart. With its gripping arm, it can hold objects weighing up to 100 kilograms. He can neutralize explosive devices with a high-pressure water jet, a bolt gun or a shotgun.
Even before the Russian attack in February, Ukraine was heavily contaminated with mines and ammunition, partly from the world wars, partly from the war in the Donbas since 2014. Even experts are currently unable to estimate how many mines will have to be cleared in Ukraine in the future . “The international community needs to know that there is a tremendous challenge ahead,” says Mairi Cunningham of the Halo Trust. “It takes staying power.”