Go to main content

Kilometres of Ukraine's forests are contaminated with explosive ordnance: DRC helps make them safe

DRC demining team step by step clears the forest in Rozvazhiv village in Kyiv Oblast that was massively contaminated with explosive ordnance after an ammunition depot exploded in spring 2022. The clearance process is slow and hard due to the heavy vegetation.

©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv Oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Posted on 18 Aug 2023

Written by Volodymyr Malynka

Tadeush, 46, is the Team Leader of the clearance team. Every day he plans and manages the demining operations, so the team reach the goal to clear the site safely and efficiently.

“In the evening, I start planning, checking the equipment and cars. I also design the team activity plan for each day, who will prepare the ground and who will clear the land,” he explains.

When the team is in the field, Tadeush is there as well, coordinating the process and conducting quality control of the cleared areas every day. He also needs to proceed with georeferencing, in other words, mark via GPS the team's progress.

The demining worksite near Rozvazhiv village is challenging. It is a forest where a Russian ammunition store exploded last spring during the conflict. The forest now is littered with explosive ordnance. After Russian troops left Kyiv Oblast, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES) made a quick check of this forest collecting some of the ammunition.

Since November 2022, the DRC demining team, supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the German Federal Foreign Office, has almost completed systematic surface search. After, DRC deminers will proceed with a sub-surface search, checking with other equipment to find any explosive ordnance in the ground. Every time they hear a signal that signifies possible explosive ordnance, they have to investigate it.

“Although it is time-consuming, it is necessary to stop and check every time because this is a battle area that is publicly accessible. The forestry harvests firewood here, and villagers also collect firewood or pick mushrooms. In addition, there is a road in the middle of the forest that leads to agricultural fields,” says Tadeush.

He has been working in DRC for almost five years and in 2022 relocated with his family from his hometown Sloviansk, which is now close to the frontline in eastern Ukraine, to Odesa in Ukraine’s South. Before February 24, his team cleared contaminated fields in Luhansk Oblast where he started working as a deminer.

“Before DRC I had a job at a tiles production plant in Sloviansk. It was a huge plant with Italian investments that produced tiles of high quality and sold them across Ukraine and abroad in Europe. As far as I know, last year it was under massive shelling, and it was heavily damaged,” says Tadeush.

“I started working as a deminer because it is a very important job. I wanted to clear my homeland. Today, I clear territories in Kyiv Oblast—it is not safe for us now to operate in Luhansk Oblast due to the frontline proximity.”

Team Leader Tadeush at the demining site in Kyiv Oblast. ©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv Oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Team Leader Tadeush at the demining site in Kyiv Oblast. ©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv Oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

High need for mine action in Ukraine

In the forest, in a row of three, there works a deminer Dmytro, 36, who joined DRC three months ago. He was employed at the same tiles production as Tadeush right until last year's conflict escalation. After three months of active battles, when the military outnumbered civilians on the streets in Sloviansk, he decided to relocate.

“Kramatorsk city, which is not far away from Sloviansk, is often shelled. I have an apartment with a view of the city, and when there is shelling from Kramatorsk side, my windows shake,” tells Dmytro.

In Rozvazhiv, he checks the area with a long yellow metal detector that looks like a stick and is used in surface search because it does not interfere with the signal and can be used next to other detectors. When a signal is found, deminers mark the finding or excavate it in case of sub-surface search.

Afterwards, they inform State Emergency Services (SES) of the findings and their specialists come to either destroy the explosive remnants of war on the spot or remove it from the site. Since DRC does not have the mandate to destroy ammunition in Ukraine, only the national authority is responsible for this. 

In a few months of work, Dmytro has already found 120 mm shells in the forest. In total, the DRC team found 117 explosive ordnance items in this area. Most of them were fuses from artillery shells, or artillery shells themselves.

Viktoria, 42, works next to Dmytro—they joined DRC at the same time. She is one of three women in a team of 13. Viktoriia is from Kramatorsk and previously worked in a beauty salon. The war forced her to leave the city and she relocated north with her husband and son and decided to join the Humanitarian Mine Action sector.

“It's physically hard, but it's okay. I understand the value of this job. The task is not easy because the site is full of thickets. We currently conduct surface search, so we are still going over the top of the soil,” she says.

Victoria sometimes goes to Kramatorsk to visit her parents and hears regular explosions there. The frontline is close —it is only 35 kilometres between Kramatorsk and Bakhmut.

The team plan to clear the demining site of 46,600 square metres in Rozvazhiv by September 2023. However, the timeframe will depend on weather conditions as deminers do not work in rain due to safety reasons. World Wide Fund for Nature at the end of 2022 estimated about 200,000 square kilometres of forest areas in Ukraine is potentially contaminated with explosive ordnance.

DRC was the first international NGO that resumed its demining operations after February 24, 2022. With active clearance processes initially in Kyiv and Chernihiv Oblasts, clearing roads, agricultural land and forests, this year DRC has expanded its demining activities further east and in Ukraine’s South — in Mykolaiv and Kharkiv Oblasts.

Alongside demining, DRC conducts explosive ordnance risk education in Ukraine’s East, North and South to reduce the number of injuries and casualties caused by unsafe behaviour and provides support to survivors of explosive ordnance accidents

Tadeush, Dmytro, and Viktoria said they planned to continue working in Humanitarian Mine Action even after the active phase of the war ends. They all are certain—demining currently is a high priority for Ukraine.

“I like this job, even though sometimes the weather conditions are very difficult—working in full protective equipment, for example, in a field at +30 C is hard. But this is a very important job, we need to clear the land where we live to make it safe again,” Dmytro underlines.

Deminer Viktoria at the demining site in Rozvazhiv village in Kyiv Oblast. ©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv Oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Deminer Viktoria at the demining site in Rozvazhiv village in Kyiv Oblast. ©DRC Ukraine, Kyiv Oblast, 2023, Volodymyr Malynka.

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
German Federal Foreign Office
German Federal Foreign Office

09 Jul 2024

Joint Statement: New EU leadership must uphold the right to asylum in Europe

19 Jun 2024

Ukraine: “I was pulled out of a 5-metre deep crater” — victim of shelling

07 Jun 2024

Ukraine: “A shell hit our house, exploding just four meters away from our bed” ‒ Olena

31 May 2024

Ukraine: Empowering food security — DRC’s initiative in Ukraine's agricultural heartlands

24 Apr 2024

Ukraine: Strikes in Kharkiv damaged DRC’s office forcing temporary suspension of support to local populations

23 Apr 2024

129 civil society organisations call on MEPs to uphold fundamental rights and reject the harmful Schengen borders code recast

22 Apr 2024

Ukraine: Mechanical demining operations are gaining momentum in Mykolaiv Oblast

10 Apr 2024

Danish Refugee Council's statement on the adoption of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum

03 Apr 2024

Ukraine: Communities in contaminated areas face severe risks from explosive ordnance

28 Mar 2024

Ukraine: “I tried to hide in a cellar when a bomb hit my yard” — Ivanna

18 Mar 2024

Surrendering human rights for migration control

05 Mar 2024

The EU must provide future-proof solutions for people displaced from Ukraine

22 Feb 2024

Ukraine: Two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion, the situation for the millions of internally displaced is deteriorating fast

09 Feb 2024

Ukraine: Strengthening national mine action capabilities

31 Jan 2024

New report: “They started beating us, used a stun gun and pepper spray on us and then threw us into the forest. We couldn't walk for three days because of the pain, and we had vision problems.”

31 Jan 2024

Pushbacks on the European borders: Unravelling the Perils Along Migration Journeys in Europe

24 Jan 2024

Ukraine: Shelter programme helps families rebuild their homes damaged by flooding or shelling

12 Jan 2024

Ukraine: Vital cash support to internally displaced persons amidst war

20 Dec 2023

Statement on EU Pact on Asylum and Migration: A wasted opportunity for a more balanced and humane approach.

13 Dec 2023

Ukraine: Surviving captivity in 2014, mother of 2 had to flee from home amidst the onset of war

12 Dec 2023

Moldova: DRC is committed to continue strategic partnership with Ministry of Internal Affairs of Moldova to strengthen joint refugee response

08 Dec 2023

Moldova: And the next level...

06 Dec 2023

Global Refugee Forum: DRC is thrilled to announce our participation in the 2023 GRF Legal Community Pledge.

29 Nov 2023

Focus on Regions: Launch of the Mixed Migration Review 2023

29 Nov 2023

Ukraine: New windows and water supply — DRC improves living conditions in western Ukraine shelters for IDPs

21 Nov 2023

Ukraine: The journey of a single mother fleeing the frontline Kherson city

13 Nov 2023

Poland: Four thousand kilometres long way to find a new home

10 Nov 2023

DRC’s support to Ukrainian civilians traveling from Poland to their hometowns: a glimpse into the mine risk education activities in Poland

09 Nov 2023

Poland | Open Place Krakow: Aid and activities for refugees and migrants

08 Nov 2023

Poland: Coping with displacement and being away from Ukraine

07 Nov 2023

Poland: Getting a second chance in life and a sense of hope after fleeing the war in Ukraine

26 Oct 2023

Ukraine: ‘I found a shell of a large calibre’ — DRC deminers clear agricultural lands

20 Oct 2023

Poland: DRC attends the Cross Border Cooperation Congress 2023 in Lublin

17 Oct 2023

Moldova: A hand in need – partnerships to find lasting solutions for Ukrainian refugees

02 Oct 2023

Beaten by police, bitten by dogs, and robbed of all rights: New Report Reveals Alarming Pushbacks and Violations at Europe's borders

29 Sep 2023

Poland: Reducing the carbon footprint of DRC operations

24 Sep 2023

Ukraine: 'I saw the missile coming' – a struggle of a single mother returning to rebuild a home

21 Sep 2023

Ukraine: Supporting children affected by explosive ordnance

20 Sep 2023

Poland: “We were 20,000 people in my home area. Now, it’s a ghost town in Ukraine!” 

19 Sep 2023

Poland: Nurturing leadership talent among migrants and refugees

15 Sep 2023

Moldova: Finding the tune in a new life after fleeing war in Ukraine

13 Sep 2023

Ukraine: DRC provided necessary medical device to injured Bakhmut citizen

11 Sep 2023

Greece: Celebrating friendship in a music video by refugee children

29 Aug 2023

Greece: Access to quality education for refugee children 

25 Aug 2023

Kosovo: Summer camps to empower minority teachers and youth

25 Aug 2023

Poland: Protecting Ukrainian lives through Risk Education

18 Aug 2023

Kilometres of Ukraine's forests are contaminated with explosive ordnance: DRC helps make them safe

04 Aug 2023

Poland: How offices in Warsaw are turned into shelter for vulnerable refugees from Ukraine

25 Jul 2023

Civilians under shelling in Ukraine: Ivan spent months in a school basement surviving the frontline battles

19 Jul 2023

DRC's support for victims of shelling in Ukraine: a glimpse into the lives of Chernihiv families

10 Jul 2023

DRC Moldova: Joint efforts improve access to legal aid for Ukrainian refugees

28 Jun 2023

Poland: New community centre for Ukrainian refugees in Krakow

22 Jun 2023

Ukraine Reconstruction: DRC helps with emergency repair of homes

21 Jun 2023

Poland: Tailoring free legal aid to protect refugees and vulnerable minorities

21 Jun 2023

Teaching youth in Serbia about gender-based violence and rights

21 Jun 2023

Safe Migration Information is critical for Ukrainians on the move

20 Jun 2023

DRC Kosovo: A decade of support to secure critical civilian registration concluded 

20 Jun 2023

Medical aid piloted for migrants and refugees in Moldova

16 Jun 2023

Joint NGO Statement: The EU must not be complicit in the loss of lives at sea and in rights violations at Europe’s borders

16 Jun 2023

Greece: Need for spaces that are child-friendly and safe

06 Jun 2023

Ukraine: Thousands at risk following the Nova Kakhovka Dam burst

30 May 2023

Protecting Rights at Borders VI: What we do in the shadows

17 May 2023

Digital innovation in Ukraine as DRC launches new Legal Aid tool

15 May 2023

DRC Greece: Human Rights Actors join forces across Europe

15 May 2023

Bosnia & Herzegovina: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

12 May 2023

Conference Response to the Public Health Challenges of Mixed Migration

11 May 2023

Italian State blueprints DRC pilot for support to Ukrainian refugees

06 May 2023

The Danish Refugee Council supports local communities

28 Apr 2023

Ukrainian shoemaker survived a heavy explosion of an Explosive Ordnance left in a bin

26 Apr 2023

“Finding courage to start all over was tough”. Businesses across Ukraine adapt to wartime challenges

26 Apr 2023

Donation for the Cantonal Hospital in Bihać

25 Apr 2023

DRC is dedicated to the environmental protection

14 Apr 2023

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Digital literacy lessons for people on the move 

14 Apr 2023

Greece: Narrowing the digital gap in education

14 Apr 2023

Italy: Social media to help raise local awareness and create dialogue

14 Apr 2023

Kosovo: Basic IT training courses and educational grants

14 Apr 2023

Moldova: Helping refugees from Ukraine overcome digital literacy barriers

14 Apr 2023

Serbia: Ukrainian refugees attend online risk education 

04 Apr 2023

Fear of mines worries farmers in Ukraine as the planting season starts

03 Apr 2023

Meet Berin Muhić our Health Team Leader

24 Mar 2023

DRC donates eight laptops for the Canton Sarajevo Health Center

17 Mar 2023

Meet Adela Softić, our Project Team Leader

16 Mar 2023

DRC Secretary General: We have reached 3 million Ukrainians

08 Mar 2023

DRC receives grant for IT innovation and internet connectivity in Ukraine

08 Mar 2023

Development of skills among DRC staff on Gender-Based Violence in Bosnia & Hercegovina

06 Mar 2023

From Ukraine to Serbia: A living nightmare to escape war

03 Mar 2023

Meet Akin Duran, our Communication with Communities Officer

02 Mar 2023

Humanitarian mine action in Ukraine – much more than removing explosives

02 Mar 2023

One year after the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive: learnings on protection of refugees from Ukraine

27 Feb 2023

Meet Sanja Dželalagić, our Health Team Leader

24 Feb 2023

Romania – a safe haven and transit point for Ukrainian refugees

24 Feb 2023

Ukraine one year on:

24 Feb 2023

Joint humanitarian NGO statement: Ukraine one year on: Highlighting the needs of displaced Ukrainians in Georgia

23 Feb 2023

DRC clears villages in Kyiv Oblast littered with explosive ordnance

21 Feb 2023

DRC presence in southern Ukraine to reach newly accessible areas

21 Feb 2023

Meet Jovanka Runić, our Protection Team Leader

20 Feb 2023

Digital literacy classes for people on the move

16 Feb 2023

Meet Samir Aboukaf, our Translator and Cultural Mediator

14 Feb 2023

Looking for asylum for 18 years

13 Feb 2023

Heaven or hell at Italy’s northern borders

10 Feb 2023

Cooperation with health institutions to upgrade and improve services

09 Feb 2023

EU migration management: Wilful blindness to evidence of harmful human rights consequences

30 Jan 2023

Mykolaiv: A city without doors, windows and half of its citizens

27 Jan 2023

DRC focuses on improving access to primary and secondary health care to people on the move

26 Jan 2023

Protecting Rights at Borders: Beaten, punished, and pushed back

16 Jan 2023

Meet Faris Kulić, our Warehouse and Logistics Officer

12 Jan 2023

Protecting Rights at Borders (PRAB)

11 Jan 2023

Meet Erdumana Spahić, our Cultural Mediator and Translator

06 Jan 2023

Meet Mufid Khalili, our Protection Officer

29 Dec 2022

Moldova: Compassion, solidarity - and warmth

29 Dec 2022

Fleeing war in Ukraine - finding refuge in Serbia

29 Dec 2022

DRC Greece: Access to schools for migrant and refugee children

13 Dec 2022

Emergency shelter in Poland for refugees from Ukraine

13 Dec 2022

From surviving in basements in Ukraine to safety in Moldova

12 Dec 2022

EU’s actions on migratory routes must prioritize safe mobility and access to protection

08 Dec 2022

EU admits Croatia to Schengen Without Regard to Abuses at the Border

07 Dec 2022

DRC press release: Scaling up capacity in Moldova to host refugees from Ukraine

08 Nov 2022

Meet Ines Arnautović, our Health Team Leader

08 Sep 2022

Joint Statement: NGOs call on Member States

16 Dec 2021

12,000 pushbacks in 2021 reflects worrying normalization of illegal practice

03 Dec 2021

Need for calm and proportional response at the EUs external borders

26 Nov 2021

Joint Statement: Call on the EU: Restore Rights and Values at Europe’s Borders

03 Aug 2021

Croatia/EU Border Monitoring System: Effective Mechanism Needed - Independent, Broad Mandate, Adequate Resources

23 Jul 2021

Using family separation as deterrent – new report documents alarming illegal push-back methods

07 Jul 2021

Countering human smuggling: No silver bullet for safer mobility

12 May 2021

Push back of responsibility: Human Rights Violations as a Welcome Treatment at Europe’s Borders

18 Mar 2021

Open letter: Five years after the EU-Turkey Statement, European Civil Society Demands an End to Containment and Deterrence at the EU’s External Borders

10 Nov 2020

Turning rhetoric into reality: New monitoring mechanism at European borders should ensure fundamental rights and accountability

23 Sep 2020

Press release: Asylum and Migration Pact

22 Aug 2023
​ DREAM: Digital Race for Employment and Mobility ​ in Tunis…
18 Aug 2023
DRC Defies the Dark and Lights Up the Renk Transit Center