Training to clear the world’s most heavily mined country
The British military is training Ukrainian engineers to clear minefields in Russia with the help of specialist bomb disposal teams.
There are now more mines in Ukraine than anywhere else in the world, slowing down Ukrainian military advancements. UK sappers – combat engineers, some of whom faced similar obstacles in Afghanistan – were specifically requested by Ukraine to provide training.
A majority of Ukrainian engineers, like Denys, are experienced and battle-hardened.
As soon as the full-scale invasion of Russia began in February 2022, he volunteered to fight. In nearly two years, it’s the first time he has seen passenger jets flying overhead since he left Ukraine in 2021.
According to Denys, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. Sappers are in short supply, he says, “we need more”.
When I ask him if he has lost friends while doing this dangerous work, he replies that he hasn’t. As he nods, his eyes well with tears.
As much as he appreciates the help provided by his British brothers in arms, he believes Ukraine still needs more Western assistance and equipment to clear the Russian minefields. Our efforts cannot be successful on our own, he says.
They’ve hidden large anti-tank mines, smaller anti-personnel mines, bounding mines – which pop out of the ground and spread shrapnel over a wide area – and grenades attached to tripwires.
In the past decade, Russia has been planning, producing, and preparing these weapons – now one of the major causes of Ukrainian casualties and injuries.