The conflict with Russia has turned Ukraine into the “most mined country” in the world, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing data from the nation’s government and several non-governmental humanitarian mine clearance groups.
Almost one-third of Ukraine’s territory has been affected by heavy fighting and will likely require intense demining operations, the media outlet said, adding that over 67,000 square miles (173,529 square kilometers) have been contaminated with unexploded ordnance, according to Slovakia-based think tank GLOBSEC. That’s more than the size of Florida and roughly equivalent to Uruguay.
“The sheer quantity of ordnance in Ukraine is just unprecedented in the last 30 years. There’s nothing like it,” Greg Crowther, the director of programs at British NGO Mines Advisory Group, told the Washington Post.
According to UN data, almost 300 civilians, including 22 children, died in Ukraine in incidents linked to unexploded ordnance between February 2022 and July 2023, the Post reported. Mines and other unexploded munitions also resulted in 632 civilian injuries over the same period, it added.
Both sides of the conflict actively use mines in their operations, the media outlet noted. The US also contributed to the mining of Ukrainian territory by supplying Kiev with 155-millimeter artillery rounds that create temporary minefields, although their submunitions are technically supposed to self-destruct, the Washington Post reported. Another US-made ordnance that was sent into Ukraine was the M21 anti-tank mine, which does not self-destruct, it added.
Washington’s decision to provide Kiev with US-made “cluster munitions, which are known to scatter duds that fail to explode, can only add to the danger,” the media outlet said.
According to some estimates, it could take 757 years to clear all of the unexploded ordnance scattered around the country, even if 500 demining teams were tasked with the mission, the Washington Post reported. World Bank estimates show that the cost of these operations could reach $37.4 billion in just the next ten years, it added.
Washington has so far committed just around $95 million to demining operations in Ukraine, according to a 2023 State Department report.
On Friday, UN Under Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo warned the UN Security Council that huge swathes of Ukrainian territory have been covered in mines and cluster bombs that will “continue to pose danger to civilians for years to come.”
Earlier this week, Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, blasted Washington for turning Ukraine into a “burial ground” for lethal waste.