In de-occupied regions, farmers' fields are not a priority for demining. Every day there are news reports of a tractor being blown up in a field.
As of mid-May, the battlefield area stands at up to 11 million hectares, almost half of which may be «contaminated» with explosive ordnance. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 22,000 hectares were surveyed as of 21 May.
Demining specialists need more time
It has already become a constant formula: one day of war equals one month of demining. According to it, the most optimistic forecasts give 5−7 years for the complete clearance of Ukrainian land from the explosive objects that the Russian occupants will leave behind. Deminers start their work immediately after de-occupation, but residential properties, various commercial buildings and roads are first in line. Agrarian fields are not in a priority group for demining. Even before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine farmers in Donetsk and Lugansk regions were queuing up to clear their fields, where the fighting ended back in 2015.
Those who could not wait spent their own money to pay private firms for demining services. Back then it cost half a million hryvnias per hundred hectares. Today, private deminers are busy as well. That is why the agrarians in order not to miss the sowing season have to survey fields by themselves. It is often done with the help of a drone. However, it does not give a 100% result, because the mine may be dragged into the ground after raining, or it may be well camouflaged, or simply not noticed. Since the beginning of the large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, almost 114,000 explosive devices have already been destroyed, including 2,000 aerial bombs. On average, the pyrotechnic units of the State Emergency Service have recovered from 2,000 to 5,000 explosive devices every day. Only in Kyiv region sappers removed 10 thousand different types of explosive devices. There are projectiles banned under the Geneva Convention among the finds.
«In Kiev region a tractor driver went to work in a field and got blown up by an unknown object. The man was taken to hospital with polytrauma.»
«In Chernihiv region, a tractor exploded on ammunition. The driver was injured.»
«A 37-year-old tractor driver was blown up by a Russian mine when he drove into a field, sappers found another one under the tractor.»
Almost every day such reports can be read in local publications and social media. Farmers start work without waiting for the demining specialist to arrive to survey the field. The latest event in Kyiv region took place at 5am. The man was saved because the tractor was large and tracked, police say. The machine hit an anti-tank mine with the front part of the track, the driver was not injured, the explosion damaged the cab, the engine compartment and ripped off the caterpillar mechanism.
Agravery.com managed to speak to the owner of the land where the tractor exploded. According to him, the plot is leased by another firm. The director set to work without waiting for deminers. The thing is that the request for demining was submitted right away, but the deminers checked only the outbuildings. No one surveyed the fields.
«The occupants entered Andriivka village on 26 February and were knocked out on 30 March. We have 130 hectares of land in the village, we cultivate 30 ha ourselves and lease 100 ha. We grow fodder for our sheep, and the tenant plants traditional grains and oilseeds. Our tenant started cultivating the land last week and the farm's tracked tractor exploded on a mine. Fortunately, no one was injured, although the tractor was new and not cheap. The works have now been suspended. We will wait for demining specialists. If we do not sow, we will have no fodder,» said the interviewer.
«The matter is that farmers cannot wait for the deminers and perform field work after inspecting them on their own. I is wrong, because only specialists can detect mines. You have to wait for them to work safely. There is no other way out. In Kyiv region we have up to 10 cases of a tractor being blown up on a mine. Workers, who repair electrical networks are often blown up. For all such cases, we open criminal proceedings under the article of violation of war customs,» said the head of the communication department of Kyiv region police, Iryna Prianishnikova.
By common effort
100 ha of Agriko Ukraine company in the Kyiv region had to be surveyed, a request was left, but demining specialists never came. After talking to local residents, together with the territorial defence, which included deminers, we managed to survey all the fields, the director of the company Mykola Gordiichuk says.
«We reported the need for demining on one of the sites for demining applications in early April. We did not manage to get any result. The deadline for sowing potatoes was coming to an end, so I spoke to representatives of the territorial defence at the time. They said that our fields were away from the occupants' routes and fighting. The territorial defence sappers found only missiles remnants. Therefore, from April 20 we started to apply fertilizer and prepare the land for potato planting. We have already finished the sowing season,» Mykola Gordiichuk said.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs reports it is doing all it can to speed up the humanitarian demining process. The International Centre for Humanitarian Demining has already been established. Attraction of international professional, technical and financial assistance is among its aims. About 20 foreign organizations have already responded and are being certified to work in Ukraine, several teams have already arrived in our country, and they will soon begin work in different regions of the country.