US to provide $89 million for demining efforts in Ukraine

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The State Department announced Tuesday it will provide $89 million to help demining efforts in Ukraine, comparing the scale of unexploded ordnances Russia left behind to tactics ISIS employed in Syria.

The funding will help set up 100 teams that can defuse and dispose of unexploded ordnances that cover an area of 160,000 square kilometers (nearly 62,000 square miles), roughly the size of Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut combined.

“Russia’s unlawful and unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine has littered massive swaths of the country with landmines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices,” the State Department said in a statement. 

“The grotesque use of improvised explosive devices in the manner that we are seeing in Ukraine by Russian actors was previously only associated with ISIS in Syria,” it added.  

The demining assistance follows an announcement Monday that the U.S. is providing $1 billion in military equipment to Ukraine, the 18th drawdown of aid and the largest package to be delivered so far, as well as $4.5 billion in economic assistance. 

The $89 million in funding will also support a “large-scale train and equip project” to demine and dispose of explosive ordinances that are in civilian areas such as farmland and that block reconstruction efforts or prevent people from returning to their homes. 

The State Department said that the remaining mines “continue to kill and maim innocent Ukrainian civilians.”

In March, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky told The Associated Press that it would take years to defuse and dispose of unexploded ordnances left behind by Russia’s invasion, including unexploded shells and mines and that also get trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

The U.S. announcement follows an intelligence assessment by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence on Monday that Russia is likely deploying “anti-personnel mines” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Called “butterfly mines,” they allegedly maimed high numbers of children in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war between 1979 and 1989. 

The intelligence update said that the Russians are likely deploying the mines to restrict freedom of movement along its defensive lines in Donbas and that the mines are “deeply controversial” and maim indiscriminately. 

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