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Ukraine: Strengthening national mine action capabilities

It is estimated that nearly 180,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian land, an area roughly half the size of Germany, may be affected by mines and other explosive ordnance. This crisis has prompted the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to take proactive measures, not only engaging directly in clearing contaminated areas but also committing to enhance the capabilities of national mine action actors.

©DRC Ukraine, 2023, Kyiv, Oleksandr Ratushniak.

Posted on 09 Feb 2024

The extensive contamination of explosive ordnance in Ukraine is a consequence of the Russian Federation's military offensive, which began in February 2022. Communities residing in these affected areas face severe risks, including injury or death, restricted access to vital resources, and disruption of socio-economic activities.

This grim situation has given rise to psychological trauma and fear among local populations, exacerbating poverty and instability.

In response to these challenges, Ukraine has established a network of institutions dedicated to Humanitarian Mine Action. Presently, several key entities contribute to these efforts:

Certification of demining operators, external quality control, and monitoring are conducted by MAC, the Interregional Centre for Humanitarian Demining and Rapid Response of SES, and the Demining Centre under the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.

It is worth mentioning that the Armed Forces of Ukraine and police EOD teams are at the forefront of emergency response in disposing of the explosive remnants of war in newly accessible areas. 

Various training programmes 

DRC equips national actors, such as MAC and SES, with essential tools, technical support, and provides training. Last year, 32 representatives from NMAA, SES, MAC, and SSTS underwent training in programming, digital mapping, quality management, explosive ordnance disposal, non-technical survey techniques, and explosive ordnance risk education.

Furthermore, 12 individuals underwent International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) EOD Level III training in Skive, Denmark. 

Vitalina Burlaka, Programme Officer, emphasises the DRC's commitment to developing national capacities, stating, "We continue to develop the capacities of national actors to ensure that the clearance of territories from explosive remnants of war is carried out not only more rapidly but also in line with international standards.

The course in Skive covered EOD standard operating procedures, identification and working principles of all types of land service ammunition, single and multiple demolitions, safety and protection measures, and more. We also provide the State Emergency Service and the Mine Action Centre with explosive ordnance disposal kits.

In other words, we first train specialists and then equip them with the necessary tools for their work." 

Training in non-technical survey techniques

©DRC Ukraine, 2023, Mykolaiv, Svitlana Koval.

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Demining teams work under shelling in eastern and southern Ukraine

In addition to training and tools, DRC has also provided 14 vehicles to MAC and SES, which are indispensable for their operations.  

Inna Kyrychenko, a specialist in the SES's Special Technical Support Department, points out the significant wear and tear experienced by vehicles during demining operations. "A large number of vehicles are damaged and constantly endure the rigours of demining missions. Units embark on missions, for example, in Kherson or Zaporizhzhia Oblasts, and often come under fire. Some vehicles get damaged, and we have to replace them: one goes in for repair, and the other is dispatched for mine clearance. Hence, the need for additional vehicles," she explains. 

The pick-up trucks delivered to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine were adapted to meet the requirements of demining operations in eastern and southern Ukraine. Oleksandr Melnyk, Deputy Head of the Special Technical Support Department of SES, adds that these vehicles required updates to protect the equipment, including mine detectors, EOD kits, helmets, and safety gear. Furthermore, they needed reinforced bumpers to navigate through thickets, along with an improved winch for self-recovery if they stuck. 

Considering the high demand for demining in Ukraine, the number of SES pyrotechnic units is actively increasing, with further recruitment and training planned over the next three years. 

Handover of the four pickups to the State Emergency Service

©DRC Ukraine, 2023, Kyiv, Oleksandr Ratushniak.

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Mine Action Center is expanding, and with it, the needs

As the MAC also increases its operations, DRC continues to provide valuable support. DRC donated mine detection devices, first aid kits, personal protective equipment, and three minivans to aid in the external quality control of demining operations across Ukraine.

Olga Romanenko, Head of the Centre's Risk Prevention and Community Engagement Department, highlights the importance of these contributions, noting that the minivans facilitate the transportation of personnel, inspection teams, and essential equipment required to perform their tasks effectively.

Furthermore, the Centre has received office equipment, laptops, and tablets. Olha reveals that the Centre's needs are now met by over fifty per cent.

"Assistance from international organisations is essential, particularly in the context of active hostilities on our territory. The need for demining is imperative, but financial resources are lacking. The Law on Mine Action in Ukraine stipulates that funding for mine action can be provided by donors, including international technical assistance, support from international organisations, and more.

In essence, instead of direct funding, donors can contribute in-kind funding for mine action activities by providing equipment and materials for the implementation of the National Mine Action Programme," she explains.

The Centre has relocated to a new office and expanded its staff. In 2024, DRC plans to donate five additional vehicles, along with extra office and IT equipment such as computers and printers, metal detectors, personal protective equipment and first aid kits to MAC. Also, the SES deminers will receive more EOD kits.

Staff training remains a priority, with two more individuals from the National Mine Action Authority, six individuals from SES and four personnel from MAC set to enhance their skills through an EOD training course in Skive. Additionally, training programmes covering non-technical survey, manual mine clearance, battle area clearance and quality management are in the pipeline.

Handover of the three minivans, personal protective equipment, metal detectors and other stuff to the Mine Action Centre

©DRC Ukraine, 2023-2024, Kyiv, Oleksandr Ratushniak, Vitalina Burlaka.

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Support to the national mine action actors in Ukraine

These crucial activities are made possible through funding from the German Federal Foreign Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Centre, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

German Federal Foreign Office
German Federal Foreign Office
French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Centre
French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Centre
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands

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