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‘Mine’ the gap: Ukraine battles explosives planted by Russia

Earlier this month, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded a special medal to Patron, a two-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, which has emerged as an unlikely hero in the three-month-long Russian siege of the country.

Patron is a military dog which has sniffed out hundreds of mines and explosive devices planted by the Russian troops in different parts of the besieged country since Russia began “the special operation” in Ukraine.

In a war that has engulfed millions of people, Patron’s heroics are not just a footnote in Ukraine’s struggle to survive but a daily reminder of the grim reality faced by the country’s people—the ever-present threat from mines in their next step.

According to rough estimates, nearly 14 percent of the country’s area—which translates to more than 600 square kms—is now strewn with mines.

Ceyhun Asirov, an expert on Russia, says that mines and other explosive devices are visible in places from where the Russian troops have withdrawn, including areas around Kiev. “It is possible to see remains of unexploded ordnance, especially in civilian areas, fields, cities and buildings,” Asirov tells TRT World.

He says that Russia’s policy of laying mines in areas it is forced to give up dates back to World War II. “Russia manages to intimidate its opponents with maps of the mines it plants…It is possible to give more examples from history to understand Russia’s mine strategy or policy,” Asirov adds.

Ukraine’s president had asked the international community to treat the act of planting mines by Russian troops as “war crime.”

“Due to the actions of the Russian army, our territory is currently one of the most contaminated by mines in the world. And I believe this should also be considered a war crime of Russian troops,” Zelenskyy had said in a video message in April.

Besides Ukrainian towns and cities—and even agricultural fields littered with mines and unexploded artillery shells—Russian troops allegedly have also planted mines in the sea off the coast of Odessa.

Experts say that future landmine clearing exercise would require immense manpower, as much as it was required in Afghanistan, a country that has been reeling from decades of conflict with landmines strewn across its towns, villages and cities.

Besides Afghanistan, thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed for life in countries like Syria and Iraq which have seen civil wars and invasion by foreign countries.

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