Ukraine Accused of Using Banned Landmines, One Day After Condemning Russia

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Human Rights Watch revealed on Friday new evidence that Ukrainian troops are using anti-personnel banned landmines against Russian troops. The news comes just one day after Ukrainian officials criticized the environmental impacts of landmines that cover 30 percent of Ukraine’s territory at a meeting with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch’s director of arms, issued a statement in which he called on Ukraine not to break its earlier commitment to “duly examine” the report. Goose said:

It is important that the Ukrainian government acknowledges its responsibility to protect civilians by pledging to investigate its military’s use of anti-personnel landmines. An immediate, transparent, and thorough investigation could be of great benefit to Ukrainians, both today and in the future.

HRW published its report on the use and abuse of these weapons in January. In May, the organization wrote to the Ukrainian government with the findings. However, the organization did not receive a response. Goose said:

Ukrainian forces have reportedly scattered landmines in the Izium region, causing civilian deaths and creating a risk. Russian forces have used antipersonnel landmines in the past and committed atrocities throughout the country. However, this does not justify Ukrainian use.

Ukraine signed the International Mine Ban Treaty of 1998 on February 24, 1999. Ukraine ratified this treaty in 2005. It prohibits anti-personnel landmines and requires that all stockpiles be destroyed.

HRW wrote that Russia’s use of these weapons “violates the international humanitarian law… because they are inherently non-discriminatory.” Goose stated:

These weapons are deadly and do not discriminate between civilians and combatants.

Since the start of the war, HRW published four reports on the use by Russian troops of 13 different types of antipersonnel mining that have killed and injured innocent civilians.

HRW wrote in June 2022 that Ukraine did not use anti-personnel landmines.

Ukraine seems to be fulfilling its obligations as an international member of the antipersonnel-mines treaty, which was ratified by Ukraine in December 2005.

This report is a continuation of the report from January, which revealed that Ukrainian soldiers launched rockets with PMF-1 mines (also called “petal” or “butterfly mines) in Russian-occupied zones, especially in and around Izium, an eastern city in the east. This action occurred between April and September 2022 during Kyiv’s successful recapture.

The latest report reveals that additional evidence has emerged regarding the use of antipersonnel landmines by Ukrainian forces. This was revealed in photos shared online, which showed warheads of Uragan rockets 220mm. The report states that each of these rockets disperses indiscriminately 312 PFM-1S mines.

The Ukrainian word “from” and a Latin letter referring to an organization in Kyiv were written on a note attached to a warhead. However, the report didn’t name the organization. Unidentified leaders of the organization posted on social media that they donated money to the Ukrainian military through a nongovernmental organization.

Another group based in Ukraine posted photos of Uragan weapons online with similar messages in Ukrainian. HRW found that the markings of the weapons indicate the same year, batch, and factory. The report stated that handwriting and phrases also matched.

Greta Tunberg attended the inaugural meeting of the environmental working group in Kyiv on Thursday.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 174,000 square kilometers of land have been contaminated with mines and unexploded explosives. This makes Ukraine the nation with the most landmines worldwide, ahead of Syria or Afghanistan. Andriy KOSTIN, the Prosecutor-General of Ukraine, stated in a tweet about the meeting that 30 percent of Ukraine is contaminated by explosive objects.

The Prosecutor-General also wrote in his post: “We call on strengthening international efforts to investigate Russia’s environmental war crimes and prosecute them.”

Ukraine should be concerned about the treaty that it is accused of violating. It condemns Russia’s actions but seems to ignore its own.