The United States approved $89 million in land mine removal assistance for Ukraine, another financial commitment from Washington nearly half a year after Russia began its invasion of its neighboring country.
The State Department announced the allocation of the significant sum for humanitarian demining operations on Tuesday. A government spokesman told Politico that the funds won’t be given to the Ukrainian government directly but rather will be given to nongovernmental organizations that field demining teams and contractors who provide the necessary training and equipment.
“These explosive hazards block access to fertile farmland, delay reconstruction efforts, prevent displaced communities from returning to their homes, and continue to kill and maim innocent Ukrainian civilians. The Government of Ukraine estimates that 160,000 square kilometers of its land may be contaminated — this is roughly the size of Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut combined,” a spokesman for the State Department said in a statement.
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“U.S. funding will deploy approximately 100 demining teams and will support a large-scale train and equip project to strengthen the Government of Ukraine’s demining and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capacity,” the statement continued.
Both Russia and Ukraine have been accused of extensively utilizing both anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines to great effect. “That’s one of the reasons why you see column after column of Russian vehicles that are destroyed. … Anti-tank or anti-personnel mines are very effective,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told a Senate committee back in April.
The U.S. has provided tens of billions of dollars of assistance to Ukraine since the invasion began in late February, and support for sending aid has split members of the Republican Party in Congress.
Russian troops have been accused of scattering mines in their wake following their withdrawal from northern Ukraine, according to the Washington Post, particularly in Kyiv’s suburbs. Anti-personnel mines placed in civilian areas could kill and maim people even decades after hostilities cease.
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Recently, banned PFM-1 “petal” mines were dispersed widely across Russian-controlled Donetsk via cluster munitions. The mines are infamous for their widespread use by Soviet forces in the Soviet-Afghan War, in which they were often mistaken for toys by children. Russian and local sources accused Ukrainian forces of deploying the mines, while Ukrainian and British intelligence accused Russia.
Mines in Ukraine will likely remain a problem for many years to come.
“Our grandchildren will be talking about land mines in Ukraine. It’s going to take decades to clear those land mines,” Ken Rutherford, a political science professor and expert on mines, told the Washington Post.