Ukraine has been heavily affected by armed conflict since 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On 24 February 2022, after Russia’s recognition of the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk and a military build-up along the Russia-Ukraine borders, Russia initiated a large-scale military operation in Ukraine targeting all major cities in the eastern, southern and central part of the country. Since its early stages, the military invasion of Ukraine has been characterized by the widespread use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions and aerial bombings. To date there has been no systematic, wide-scale assessment of explosive ordnance (EO) contamination and what humanitarian impact they pose to date, but initial information indicates that the size of anti-personnel mine contamination is “massive”, while the cluster munitions remnants contamination is estimated to be “large”.
Norwegian People's Aid in Ukraine
NPA deployed to the country in May 2022 with the aim of establishing a Mine Action and Disarmament (MAD) programme, seeking to alleviate civilians’ suffering from the effects of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive ordnance. From the initial deployment to the country NPA MAD Ukraine has been focusing on supporting the main national mine action operator, the State Emergency Services of Ukraine (SESU), and in parallel on establishing and deploying NPA’s own mine action operational capacities. Through a partnership agreement with SESU, NPA has been implementing a project providing SESU’s teams with demining material and equipment, and technical support in establishing a sustainable mine detection dog (MDD) capacity within SESU’s Humanitarian Demining Department. Between 2022 and 2023 NPA provided SESU with much needed demining and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) equipment and vehicles for a total of 20 new SESU demining teams.
The NPA MAD programme has directly implemented mine action activities since February 2023, following successful completion of accreditation process through the national Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC) to conduct non-technical survey (NTS) and explosive ordnance risk education (EORE). NPA received accreditation to conduct technical survey (TS) and manual clearance operations in early June 2023. By the end of October 2023, NPA’s NTS teams had identified and reported to the MACC more than 7.5 million square metres of hazardous areas that are directly and indirectly affecting around 53,000 people in areas of Mykolaiv and Sumy. Since starting operations in July, the clearance teams in Mykolaiv already found 134 landmines, which have all been safely removed and destroyed by SESU. NPA teams delivered EORE and conflict preparedness and protection (CPP) sessions to more than 9,000 people, including girls, boys, women and men. An additional 1,500 people were reached through a project with NPA DHC Ukraine, working with national partner organisations to deliver context-specific safety messages on EORE and CPP. From August 2022 until August 2023 NPA’s MAD programme in partnership with the Ukrainian Deminers Association (UDA) also implemented two projects for the dissemination of EORE and CPP messages to more than 13,600 people from at-risk populations in the conflict-affected regions of Sumy, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Dnipro.
In April 2023, NPA delivered a total of 14 MDDs to Ukraine, with six designated for SESU and eight allocated for NPA operations. Training for the dogs and their handlers, conducted jointly at SESU's Interregional Rapid Response Center in Romny, took place from May to August. The joint training was delivered by NPA's MDD technical advisor and an MDD technical field manager, with support from a trainer from NPA's Global Training Centre (GTC) for detection dogs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. SESU obtained MDD accreditation in early October and immediately began deploying the dogs. In November 2023, NPA became the first organisation in Ukraine to obtain accreditation for using MDDs for demining operations. NPA is currently finalizing the necessary infrastructure to deploy the dogs in operational areas in Mykolaiv region.
NPA is also in the process of securing accreditation for the use of mechanical assets, expected to be finalized by February 2024. The programme already procured three remote-controlled demining machines and two remote-controlled vegetation cutting machines that are ready to be deployed. With the MDDs and mechanical assets our teams will have access to the full mine action toolbox which will significantly increase NPA’s efficiency and effectiveness in realising previously contaminated land to safe and productive use.
Currently, the NPA MAD programme operates from its field offices in Lebedyn (Sumy region) and Mykolaiv (Mykolaiv region), and with the country team in Kyiv, has 197 employees, of which 20 are international staff. NPA deploys 12 NTS/EORE teams in Sumy, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions and 16 multi-task teams (MTTs) in Mykolaiv region. In August 2023, at the invitation of the regional authorities, NPA deployed some of its NTS teams to Kherson region with the longer-term aim of deploying clearance capacity to the area. Parts of Kherson were liberated in November 2022 and the region was subject to some of the heaviest fighting and subsequent explosive ordnance contamination.