Rights group accuses Ukraine of using banned mines

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Ukraine of using banned antipersonnel landmines against invading Russian forces, saying nearly 50 civilians, including five children, were injured.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry insisted the military meet its treaty obligations against mines, but would not comment on the types of weapons used until the end of the war.

Delivered by rocket to a target area, tiny PFM mines are also known as “butterfly” or “petal” mines due to their distinctive shape.

“Ukrainian forces appear to have landmines widely scattered” around the Izium region in the northeast, HRW weapons expert Steve Goose said.

Russian forces held Izium between April and early September, when Kyiv recaptured it in a counteroffensive.

“Russian forces have repeatedly used anti-personnel mines and committed atrocities across the country, but that does not justify Ukraine’s use of these banned weapons,” Goose said.

Ukraine is a signatory to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and has destroyed much of its Soviet stockpile by 2020.

But in 2021 – the year before the Russian attack – Kyiv reported to the UN that more than 3.3 million PFM mines contained in artillery rockets had yet to be destroyed.

HRW said its field researchers had seen physical evidence of these rockets and traces of mines in the Izium area, as well as spoken to witnesses who had encountered mines themselves, knew someone who had been injured or had been warned of the presence of weapons.

“Medical workers said they treated nearly 50 civilians, including at least five children, who were allegedly injured by landmines,” HRW said.

“About half of the injuries involved traumatic amputations of the foot or lower leg, injuries consistent with PFM blast mines.”

“Ukraine should reaffirm the strict prohibitions of the Mine Ban Treaty, open an investigation into the recent apparent use of PFM antipersonnel mines, hold those responsible to account, and take steps to secure and destroy its stockpiles of antipersonnel mines” , the rights group said. said, also urging Russia to terminate their use.

HRW said it presented Ukrainian authorities with a summary of the findings in November.

Deputy Defense Minister Oleksandr Polishchuk responded but did not provide direct answers to the allegations, he added.

But he said: “Ukraine is a reliable member of the international community, and it is fully committed to respecting all international obligations in the field of mine use. This includes the non-use of anti-personnel mines during war.

Ukrainian authorities could not comment on the types of weapons used “before the end of the war and the restoration of our sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

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