Both sides using banned landmines and bombs in Ukraine war
Our friend Erin Hunt, co-director of Mines Action Canada, is urging Canadians to prepare to respond to the terrible use of banned weapons in Ukraine.
This week Human Rights Watch said it has documented “numerous cases” of Ukrainian forces firing land mines into territory that was controlled at the time by Russia.
In a new report, Human Rights Watch suggests that Ukraine scattered so-called petal mines in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Izium. Petal mines are prohibited under the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, of which Ukraine is a signatory, because of their ability to indiscriminately maim and kill.
As for the Russians, writes Hunt in The Globe and Mail, “In addition to reported war crimes, such as the targeting of civilian infrastructure, there is evidence that Russia has been using banned weapons in Ukraine.”
She says that these banned weapons include anti-personnel landmines, and cluster bombs that release hundreds of small hand-grenade-sized bombs over a wide indiscriminate area.
“When Ukraine liberates territory that was occupied by Russia, they are finding heavy contamination from landmines that Russian troops have left behind, including anti-personnel landmines, which are banned by 164 countries,” she writes. Since the invasion began, there have been hundreds of landmine casualties in Ukraine; farmers and agricultural workers have been particularly at risk.
Unlike Ukraine, Russia has not joined the United Nations Landmine Ban, which was championed by Canada in the 1990s. But Hunt points out that international norm against their use is strong, and any use of these horrific weapons should be condemned.
Russia (and, to a lesser degree, Ukraine) has also reportedly been deploying cluster munitions, which have also been prohibited by the majority of the world’s countries because of their humanitarian impact.
Cluster bombs are dangerous even after they’re used because their bomblets frequently fail to detonate; this leaves unstable explosives scattered like landmines over areas the size of a football field.
Erin Hunt says that these landmines and cluster bombs left behind will be discovered: one way or another.
“Either the mines and unexploded ordnance are found and destroyed by demining teams, or they are found by civilians – a farmer working their land, a child playing soccer or a displaced person returning to their home – with deadly results,” she writes.
Canada has contributed greatly to ridding the world of these weapons, and should be ready when the time comes to take action in Ukraine.