Bureaucracy and lack of people, equipment hamper demining of agricultural land in Kharkiv region

Karina Bondar - 19 April 2024 | 20:43

KHARKIV OBLAST, UKRAINE, Apr 19 — The process of demining agricultural land in the Kharkiv region mined during the Russian invasion began only at the end of 2023 and is progressing at an “extremely slow pace”, reported Yevhen Ivanov, deputy head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, during a briefing.

According to him, as of the beginning of 2024, non-governmental operators such as Halo Trust, Swiss FSD, and the UN FAO have managed to clear only about 100 hectares of arable land and survey several thousand hectares for explosive devices.

The Kharkiv Oblast remains one of Ukraine’s most mined regions — especially its border communities of Vovchansk, Vilkhuvata, Petropavlivka, and Borova.  

Ivanov explained that state service providers are busy demining critical infrastructure: power lines, gas pipelines, railways, public places, private sector, etc. On the other hand, the lack of human resources, equipment, and many a bureaucratic procedure hamper the demining process by private organizations. In particular, non-governmental operators do not have the right to destroy detected explosive items independently, but only to examine them and pass the information on to government’s structures.

In February 2024, a sapper unit of the Luhansk garrison of the State Emergency Service began clearing the territory of the Kharkiv Oblast using mechanized demining. Before that, sappers had been working in the Kherson Oblast for about a year. Gwara Media journalists visited the sappers in the Balakliia community to see how mechanized demining works.

In the Kharkiv region, 570 thousand hectares of land are potentially mined. At the current pace, it will take more than 100 years to clear the region of mines completely, said Yevhen Ivanov. Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, sappers have found and defused more than 87,000 explosive devices and inspected more than 4,000 hectares of territory and more than 3,000 kilometers of power lines.

Photo credits: Mine clearance in the Balakliia community / Polina Kulish for Gwara Media

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