Now Ukraine is one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world. How to protect yourself and not explode? Together with the sapper, Babel explains the rules of mine safety

Oksana Rasulova
Yuliana Skibitska
Now Ukraine is one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world. How to protect yourself and not explode? Together with the sapper, Babel explains the rules of mine safety

Kateryna Bandus / «Бабель»

In April, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine stated that our country needs to clear from mines about 300 thousand square kilometers, which is almost half of the countryʼs territory. Thus, Ukraine is now one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world. Dangerous are currently occupied territories, deoccupied ones, and even those where there was no direct occupation. So one should be careful and know how to behave so as not to explode on ammunition. Babel asked sapper Roman Pomazan to explain the main rules of mine safety.

We understand that majority of our English-speaking audience wonʼt need these tips — at least we hope so. Still, we decided to publish this article in English as well, so more people in the world could feel what Ukraine is going through now and what skills it takes now to just be a Ukrainian.

How soon after the de-occupation can I return to my place? How long does it take to demine the territory?

There is no exact answer because the time of demining a city or village can be very different. Almost three months have passed since the deoccupation of Kyiv, Sumy and Chernihiv regions, and we are still working on demining — this time was not enough to check everything.

Demining happens in several stages. First of all, a technical inspection is needed. SES officers analyze where the fighting took place and where the occupiers lived, interviewing local residents. They can tell who stood where, and where the headquarters was. This is roughly how seemingly dangerous areas are defined.

Then experts come to check if these territories are really dangerous. If any explosives are found, they confirm that it is a mined area.

After that, humanitarian demining is carried out — sappers enter the territory and check every square meter. They neutralize the found shells. Itʼs after this stage that you can return to the previously occupied territories.

Civilians who havenʼt left dangerous areas should not ignore mine danger signs. Usually dangerous areas are fenced with marking tape, special signs are left. You need to pay attention to them.

What area can be dangerous?

First of all, these are previously occupied territories. Especially the places where the occupiers lived. They took seemingly safe areas for themselves and mined everything around, put up tripwires. Thatʼs where the highest level of danger is, especially if the Russians lived there for more than a week, not just drove by. Also dangerous are the places where the fighting took place, where cluster shells hit.

However, non-occupied territories can also be a threat. For example, in Odesa, the sea current brings water mines to the beaches. In general, sea coasts can now be dangerous, as well as forests. For now, you should refrain from going there.

What can the Russians mine?

Whatever is possible, the only question is whether they lacked imagination and skills. Everything from the front door to a box of candies can be mined. For example, a flashlight: a person picks it up, wants to check if it works, turns it on — and it explodes. The child picks up a toy that interests him — an explosion comes. There were many such cases in Donbas in 2014. Therefore, it is better just not to take in hands anything at all.

What can explosive devices look like?

They can have any shape and size. Can be round, oblong, petal-shaped. From an anti-personnel mine 10 centimeter in diameter to a 50-kilogram 152-mm projectile. The explosive can be dry or liquid. Cluster shells "sow" a certain area around.

A tripwire is a stretched wire, thread, fishing line, or anything tied to a grenade. The projectile fires when a person touches this thread and pulls out a ring from a grenade.

In general, now we find everything that the Russians used [in this war] — from grenades to air bombs. Anything may not explode [after the initial attack], there are no exceptions.

And why did the shells fall and not detonate?

The reasons are different. For example, a projectile bounces off a tree or falls on soft ground — then the contact detonator does not activate because of the angle of contact with the surface or its insufficient hardness. The powder projectile could get wet. Also, the projectile could be of poor quality or outdated. But, as they say, once a year even the stick fires — even a faulty projectile can explode.

For how long such shells can be active?

For decades. We still find unexploded ordnance from World War II. Therefore, the danger can persist for a long time.

How do I know if the area around my house has been inspected?

Follow the reports of local authorities. To check your apartment or house, you need to call 101 and leave a request for examination by sappers. This must be done if there is a possibility that Russians lived there. Thus check the house territory and the building. Unfortunately, many people neglect this and go to not yet demined premises. Accidents occur.

And if I donʼt know if the sappers checked my house, how to get inside?

Donʼt go inside. You canʼt do it yourself. You will not be able to determine if the room is safe.

What if I see an explosive device?

The first thing is to call 101 and 102. Remember this place and mark it with tools at hand, then find and show it to the sappers. The SES usually has three days to respond to a call, but we are now trying to arrive as soon as we receive the application.

Never come close to the potential explosive. There are anti-personnel mines that do not respond to weight, but to vibration from human steps and detonate while you are still 10 meters from it.

Under no circumstances should you take an explosive device in your hands and manipulate it. There may be remnants of explosives in the wreckage of detonated shells, so it is also better not to touch them.

Return from the dangerous area the way you came there, and in any case donʼt move forward.

Are there rules for marking a dangerous area?

You can use everything that came to hand. This item must be different. For example, it could be something red. Or you can hang a plastic bottle on a tree. The main thing is to make it noticeable.

And how to move by car?

First of all — to drive only on roads with a hard asphalt covering. Field roads are more dangerous, they could be mined, and you wonʼt notice it. You should not drive on forest roads.

On the example of Sumy region, I can say that you should not drive in the 20-kilometer border area. This is very dangerous. Roads or unexploded ordnance can be mined there, as these areas are still under fire.

Also, under no circumstances should you drive or walk straight across the fields.

Is there a threat in water bodies? What are the rules of conduct on the water now?

The sea can bring mines. The river will not bring the projectile to you, but if something lies in the pond, it can explode.

And if a neighbor brought a mine to the garage, what should I do?

Call the police. They will come and explain, so to speak, why this cannot be done. And SES. This person puts himself and those around him in danger. Unfortunately, a lot of interesting people want to promote and see whatʼs inside, although they do not understand it at all. This can only be done by specialists, for everyone else any such object is dangerous, it can not be touched.

If an explosion does occur, how can I provide first aid?

First of all, you need to check if there is a danger for you in this area. Inspect it, and then approach. It is necessary to call an ambulance and SES.

As for first aid — it depends on the type of injury, and it is impossible to explain without practice. Therefore it is necessary to address to physicians and to pass courses. There you will be taught, for example, to apply the tourniquet correctly if the person lost a limb or has bleeding due to the explosion.

How to explain all this to children?

We need to work with children in a playful way, they need to be interested, not scared. Otherwise they just wonʼt listen. We often teach children, and we need our own approach every time. Itʼs easier with adults in this sense.

For example, we use repetitions and refinements during the game. We ask, "Children, do you understand that this cannot be touched?" If the children say "yes", we clarify again: "Whoever realizes that it is dangerous, jump up twice and clap once." In games, children better remember the rules through such combinations.

Is it possible to organize a mine safety lecture for a community, home or school?

Yes of course. To do this, contact the press service of the SES in your city or district. Now we hold many lectures and practical classes for labor collectives, utilities, educational institutions, work with farmers. No one will deny you this request, because we are interested in making people aware. And itʼs all better to do it clearly.

You can also find materials on the SES website to print posters or brochures, instructions. They can also be sent to your request.

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