An OSCE project to clear mines and unexploded ordnance in eastern Ukraine, supported by Germany, was launched in Kyiv on 30 July. Since 2014, large areas of land have been contaminated by explosives as a result of the hostilities. For Germany, the primary aim of the project is to protect the civilian population and thereby stabilise the region in the long term.
Eastern Ukraine contaminated by unexploded ordnance and mines
The hostilities in eastern Ukraine between the pro-Russian separatists and the Government have contaminated large areas with mines and explosive remnants of war. This has led to a number of accidents with civilian casualties. The issue is further compounded by the fact that state infrastructure for clearing mines and unexploded ordnances is severely impaired, and in some cases even destroyed. Prior to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU) primarily focused on clearing historic munition from the Second World War. Its spectrum of tasks has widened considerably now – under especially challenging conditions. The SESU recovered over 150,000 explosives in 2014 alone.
German support for disarmament in Ukraine
The Federal Foreign Office has therefore provided support in this area since 2014. At Germany’s initiative, the Ukraine Disarmament Trust Fund was set up within the framework of the OSCE. In February 2015, the Federal Foreign Office procured fifty metal detectors worth 100,000 euros for the SESU. The OSCE project that has now been launched is providing the SESU with additional support for clearing mines, booby-traps and explosive remnants of war in eastern Ukraine, thereby helping to protect the civilian population directly. Jeffrey Erlich, Deputy Head to the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, emphasised that the project is making an important contribution to eliminating risk to the lives of people, their property and important infrastructure.
Long-term assistance to help protect the civilian population
Receiving one million euros from the German Government, the project aims to equip several SESU teams of experts with urgently needed equipment such as protective clothing, telecommunications equipment, vehicles and metal and explosive material detectors. Moreover, the SESU employees will be trained and operating procedures brought into line with current and situation-specific standards. New information material is set to make awareness-raising among the population easier.
At the project launch in Kyiv, Wolfgang Bindseil, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Germany in Kyiv, said that this latest commitment was part of Germany’s steady and long-term support for Ukraine. Mykola Chechotkin, Head of the State Emergency Service, hailed the project as an important contribution to mine clearance, which she said was currently the top priority for Ukraine.