Attrition: Landmine Removal


December 15, 2023: Ukraine has a growing problem with territory contaminated by landmines. This is a major issue with farmland, where a lot of the Russian landmines ended up. Crops cannot be planted in land containing landmines. A solution came from Azerbaijan, a nation, like Ukraine, that was once part of the Soviet Union. While Azerbaijan is smaller than Ukraine, with a population of only ten million, Azerbaijanis are entrepreneurial, have oil fields and have industrialized since the 1990s. One of the items produced in Azerbaijan is the Revival P Mine Removal Vehicle. Production of this device was initially for internal use, as Azerbaijan had lots of territory littered with landmines because of decades of fighting Armenia and Russia. Azerbaijan finally won its war with Armenia in 2020 and now had lots of war-torn territory heavily infested with landmines and in need of considerable mine clearing. At first Azerbaijan used several imported mine clearing devices. Eventually Azerbaijan realized it could design and build a more effective mine clearing vehicle and out of that came the Revival P Mine Removal Vehicle, which Azerbaijan used a lot and continues to use.

In a friendly gesture to a fellow victim of Russian landmine pollution, Azerbaijan donated six Revival P mine removal vehicles, accompanied by instructors, to the Ukrainian State Service for Emergency Situations. These mine removal vehicles will be used by combat engineers (or sappers) in the Poltava region, which is most polluted by landmines. Revival P mine removal vehicles are self-propelled and remotely controlled by an operator that directs the machines into areas where there are mines or unexploded munitions. The Revival system scoops up these items and is designed to survive explosions of most items. Unexploded items are dumped at a collection point as the Revival P mine removal vehicles are checked for damage and their batteries recharged as necessary.

Ukraine has been confronted by a significant mine problem as Russian forces were driven out of occupied Ukrainian territory. There were also a lot of unexploded munitions in these areas as well. All these explosive devices complicated continued Ukrainian attacks on Russian forces. Even when these counter-offensive operations have driven the Russians out, the landmines and unexploded munitions remain and delay Ukraine’s reconstruction efforts. Initially Ukraine used mine removal equipment donated by NATO nations. The sudden appearance of the Revival P Mine Removal Vehicle was a welcome addition to the mine clearing equipment needed for an effort that Ukraine estimated would require at least 40 mine removal machines for all the combat engineers assigned to the mine clearing effort. Before the arrival of the six Revival P mine removal vehicles, Ukraine had also received 19 other mine removal vehicles from Canada, Switzerland, Estonia, and the United States. Ukraine expects another 18 mine removal systems from South Korea, Canada, Australia, and Britain.

The substantial number of landmines is part of the Russian strategy against Ukraine, which includes more attacks on the Ukrainian economy. This deprives more Ukrainians of jobs and homes and forces more to leave the country. Ukraine has already seen about twenty percent of its population flee the country because of dangers civilians face from the Russian attacks on the economy. This strategy is meant to prolong the war and demoralize Ukraine’s NATO allies as well as the Ukrainian population. This Russian strategy of attacks on the economy began a few months after the war began and the Russian forces suffered heavy losses. For most of 2022 Russia was deliberately attacking the Ukrainian economy and the result was that Ukrainian GDP declined 30 percent in 2022. The initial Russian attacks concentrated on Ukrainian defense industries, followed by major non-defense industries and agriculture. Russia deliberately attacked power plants, oil refineries and distribution networks for natural gas. The landmines reduced and complicated farming efforts.

It was these attacks on economic targets that prompted NATO nations to send in anti-aircraft systems. Meanwhile Russia was attacking agricultural production by attacking grain storage silos and agricultural infrastructure. Some crop land was intentionally rendered unusable by planting landmines. Russia attacked grain ships operating from Black Sea ports and many of these ships were forced to take shelter in Ukrainian ports. Grain and other foodstuffs are major Ukrainian exports and Russia deliberately sought to shut down these exports. The cost of flour and bread went up worldwide but particularly in countries more dependent on grain imports.

While NATO shipments of weapons to Ukrainian forces receive lots of media attention, there has been an equally large effort to assist the Ukrainian economy. The Ukrainian GDP was $200 billion in 2021 and received $122 billion in foreign military and economic assistance in 2022. Repairing the Ukrainian economy cannot begin on a large scale until the war ends. It was hoped this might happen by the end of 2023, but the Russian strategy is to keep the war going for as long as it takes to weaken NATO resolve and enable Russia to declare some kind of victory. This is a victory of the “create a desert and call it peace” variety. So far, the destruction is mainly in Ukraine, with Russia threatening to use its nuclear weapons if any large-scale destruction takes place in Russia.

In late 2022 Ukraine estimated that the Russian attacks on the economy would require a reconstruction budget of over $350 billion. As the destruction continues in 2023, reconstruction costs increase as well. That has led to serious proposals to use $350 billion in Russian assets in the West that have been frozen, as in kept from Russian control for the duration of the war, for reconstruction of Ukraine. Russia is also accused of more conventional war crimes committed in Ukraine against civilians. Russia is unmoved by the Western threats and accusations and determined to make Ukraine and the West suffer for its role in defeating Russian efforts to conquer Ukraine. The Russian government describes their attack on Ukraine as an effort to defend Russia from NATO aggression. According to Russia their tactics are justified as part of its defensive measures.




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