OSCE reiterates need for mine action in eastern Ukraine
As the world marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, Yasar Halit Cevik, and the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine, Henrik Villadsen, have reiterated the importance and urgency of conducting mine action in eastern Ukraine, according to a report on the OSCE's website.
"In light of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' appeal to support the bigger battle against COVID-19, now more than ever, the signatories of the Minsk Agreements must implement commitments undertaken to remove existing mines and not to lay new ones. Last year, mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other explosive objects caused more fatalities than shelling and small-arms fire combined. Of the 48 civilian casualties caused by mines and UXO in 2019, ten were children. Since 2017, the SMM has recorded nearly 300 civilian casualties due to mines and UXO. So far this year the number of victims already stands at 12," Cevik said.
Cevik welcomed the recent mine action in disengagement areas in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, but stressed more needed to be done, the document states.
"There is an urgent need for mine clearance in places where civilians are present, including schools, hospitals, entry-exit checkpoints and cemeteries along the contact line. The presence of mines and other explosive objects also poses a threat to the safety of Mission members and affects the SMM's ability to carry out its mandate by restricting its freedom of movement," he said.
"The creation of a mine action authority to co-ordinate the efforts of all players, governmental and non-governmental, is of paramount importance. A more coherent and efficient response will help to bring down the risks for people from explosive threats. We are ready to continue our support to Ukraine not only by providing equipment and training, but also in terms of policy advice, including on improving relevant legislation to enable such interagency cooperation," Henrik Villadsen said.
For the past year, the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine has provided to Ukraine's authorities, metal detectors and protective gear, training on quality control in humanitarian demining, and access to international experience, notably on dealing with the threat from improvised devices, the report says. Together with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, the Coordinator has been helping to roll out and improve the use of a digital mine action database," the document states.