Among some of the most significant challenges of the de-occupied Kherson region is an extremely large amount of explosive objects, which threatens the health and life of its residents, and interferes with cultivating the land.
According to the information of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, of the 683,000 hectares of territory liberated from the occupiers of the Kherson Region, about 29,272 hectares have been surveyed, and 57,625 explosive objects have been found and destroyed. The area of agricultural land potentially contaminated with lethal munitions is 508.3 thousand hectares, of which only 25.3 thousand hectares have been surveyed.
We meet with bomb techs near Muzikyvka. The commander of the consolidated detachment of the National Guard of Ukraine Ihor with the call sign “West” who has more than 10-years work experience, says that ten thousand dangerous finds can be found in a month or two. The priority of his team is the demining of agricultural territories, since Kherson region lives at the expense of agriculture and farmers still have time to plant crops.
Ihor shows two locations, one of which contains safe elements that are simply removed from the fields, and the other contains dangerous, mainly rocket artillery ammunition: “Grads”, “Hurricanes”, “Tornadoes”, as well as remnants of ammunition for “Pantsir C1”. This deadly “scrap metal” was collected in one week, during which bomb techs were using drones and manually checking fields, access roads. Everything that is found is sorted. Dangerous ammunition is destroyed immediately on the spot. What is to be transported is detonated at a designated location with minimal damage to the environment and locals.
In response to the question of compliance with safety measures for the locals, the commander notes that it is strictly forbidden to touch anything due to the high probability of detonation. It is necessary to move to a safe distance, mark the place if possible and call the “hotline” 101, 102 or the local military administration. In no case should you go to field work without waiting for the demining of agricultural lands due to frequent cases of demining. Ihor shared the story of how the soldiers of his unit had to find several more mines under a tractor that had already been blown up by three mines. Then, fortunately, the tractor driver survived, he was taken to the hospital, but fatal cases in the fields are not rare in the Kherson Region.
Ihor’s team uses individual demining equipment, unmanned drones, protective kits provided by Ukraine’s partner countries. Fighters are constantly improving their professional level: they undergo training, retraining, and learn to work with new equipment supplied by allies.
The specificity of mining in the Kherson region is a large number of cluster munitions, which are randomly “seeded” in the fields. The longer the war lasts, the more methods of both manual and remote mining of territories appear. The last method is used by the enemy even now, since the greatest distance of remote mining with different types of ammunition is 140 kilometers. Russia uses all possible means typical of terrorists, making demining work as difficult as possible. It should be noted that these “gifts” are prohibited by the Geneva Convention, however, since 2019, the Russian Federation does not recognize the article that defines the UN as the body that has the right to judge the country for violating the rights of the civilian population during the war.
The soldiers of the unit are well equipped, and the commander jokingly flaunts a helmet “sanctified” in the church: “We`ve received the Easter paska from home and decided to sanctify it in the church. Of course, there was no basket at hand, so we put it in the helmet. So it got sanctified.”
Another bomb expert, 21-year-old Denys, notes that in this war, the role of engineers and sappers is one of the leading ones. Even in a group of SOF (Special Operational Forces) fighters that enters the rear of the enemy, there is a sapper who clears the territory so that the special forces can carry out their task. “That’s why our motto is ‘Ahead of the pack.’ You need to know what you are doing and carry it out, – Denys smiles.
The National Guardsmen demonstrated the work of destroying the found ammunition: preparing shells, checking the state of the electrical network, charging the machine.
– Get ready!
And a powerful controlled explosion lifts shell fragments in the air. Now it will no longer harm anyone.