According to Ukrainian military engineers, Russia is planting mines everywhere, even concealing explosives in common items such as fridges, toys, and children’s books.

According to Ukrainian military engineers, Russia is planting mines everywhere, even concealing explosives in common items such as fridges, toys, and children's books.

The Lingering Threats of Russian-Mined Ukraine


Ukraine has valiantly held its own against Russia’s invasion for over 17 months, successfully liberating significant portions of land that were initially seized. However, the expulsion of Russian troops from towns and cities does not eliminate the threat altogether. The occupying soldiers have left behind a dangerous legacy that will haunt Ukraine for years to come: landmines and traps. Russian forces have ruthlessly turned everyday household items like toys, fridges, and even children’s books into deadly booby traps, with the sole purpose of inflicting as much damage as possible.

The presence of landmines is not limited to the front lines alone. In the months leading up to the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia constructed elaborate defensive fortifications, including sprawling minefields in the eastern and southern regions. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, has highlighted that this massive minefield is the biggest problem Ukraine must address and is the leading cause of casualties among Kyiv’s troops.

Ukraine now finds itself at the precarious position of being the most mined country in the world, with some estimates suggesting that over 40 percent of its territory may be contaminated. The process of demining is not only laborious but also exceedingly dangerous, often carried out by sappers – combat engineers responsible for tasks ranging from building bridges to clearing minefields.

One such sapper, Oleksandr, leads a team engaged in humanitarian demining efforts around Kyiv and other regions in northern Ukraine. Even after liberation, these areas remain plagued by mines, unexploded ordnance, and booby traps left by retreating Russian soldiers. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of the complete disaster left behind by the Russians, with mines found everywhere, even in homes and the bodies of those killed.

The demining process is meticulous and involves several steps. Sappers begin by gathering information from locals to ascertain the extent of contamination and the types of explosive devices employed. They then employ drones to map unexploded ordnance on the surface. Armed with metal detectors and other equipment, the sappers clear the area manually, all the while exercising utmost caution and mindfulness.

Russian forces have gone beyond traditional landmines, utilizing booby traps hidden in everyday objects. Toys, furniture, kitchen utensils, and even plates were rigged with explosives. Oleksandr witnessed explosives placed inside children’s books. These tactics serve no evident tactical advantage, but rather aim to cause as much damage as possible, according to First Lieutenant Maksym Trykur.

The extent of the mining problem is not limited to humanitarian concerns. Mines restrict communities from resuming their lives long after active combat ceases. Children inadvertently stumble upon hidden mines, and explosive devices left on roads disrupt vital supply chains, hindering the transportation of essential goods like medication, food, and postal services. Furthermore, Ukraine’s role as a major grain supplier to the rest of the world, especially Africa and the Middle East, is endangered due to mine contamination threatening the ability to grow food.

The enormity of Russia’s contamination means that Ukraine will grapple with mine removal for years to come. Unfortunately, Ukraine’s sappers lack some of the necessary equipment to effectively tackle such a colossal problem, relying mainly on physical manpower. While the US has provided significant support to Ukraine, including mine-clearing equipment and mine-resistant armored vehicles, there is still a need for additional assistance to eliminate these death traps.

Ukraine’s Western military backers must focus on air defense, offensive combined arms maneuver, and the provision of engineers and mine-breaching equipment, as emphasized by Gen. Milley. The situation in Ukraine demands ongoing international support to ensure the successful removal of landmines and the safeguarding of civilian lives.