HRW reports new evidence of Ukrainian use of banned landmines

The rights group has previously published four reports documenting the use by Russian troops.

A sign warning of dangerous landmines stands in front of the damaged house of Volodymyr Kovalyov, 77, his wife Tetiana, 76, and their granddaughter Svetlana, 21, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in the village of Posad-Pokrovske, northwest of the city of Kherson, Ukraine January 28, 2023. Russian troops reached Posad-Pokrovske on Feb. 25 last year, the day after Russia launched the full-scale invasion it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine. It was as far as they were able to push north, and the area around the small settlement became a no-go zone between enemy forces. The ground is now littered with ammunition boxes, bullet casings and burned out Russian tanks. Mines lay scattered, two unexploded missiles protrude from the earth nearby, deep, narrow trenches snake through fields and house after house lays in ruins. REUTERS/Nacho Doce SEARCH "DOCE UKRAINE VILLAGE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Anti-personnel mines are detonated by a person's presence [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday that it uncovered new evidence of the indiscriminate use by Ukrainian forces of banned anti-personnel landmines against Russian troops who invaded Ukraine in 2022.

The group called on Ukraine’s government to follow through with a commitment made earlier this month not to employ such weapons, investigate their suspected use and hold accountable those responsible.

“The Ukrainian government’s pledge to investigate its military’s apparent use of banned anti-personnel mines is an important recognition of its duty to protect civilians,” Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch’s arms director, said in a statement.

HRW said it shared its findings with the Ukrainian government in a May letter to which it received no response.

Ukraine’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Ukraine in 2005 ratified a 1997 international treaty banning such mines and mandating the destruction of stocks of the weapons.

Russia did not join the treaty and its use of anti-personnel mines “violates international humanitarian law … because they are inherently indiscriminate,” the report said.

Anti-personnel mines are detonated by a person’s presence, proximity or contact and can kill and maim long after a conflict ends.

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, HRW has published four reports documenting the use by Russian troops of 13 types of anti-personnel mines that killed and injured civilians.

The new report is a follow-on to a January report that Ukrainian soldiers fired rockets that scattered thousands of PMF-1 mines in Russian-occupied areas in and around the eastern city of Izium between April and September 2022, when Kyiv’s forces recaptured it.

The latest report said that fresh evidence of Ukrainian forces’ use of anti-personnel mines in 2022 came from photographs posted online by an individual working in eastern Ukraine that showed warhead sections of Uragan 220mm rockets.

Those rockets each indiscriminately disburses 312 PFM-1S anti-personnel mines, said the report.

Analysis of handwriting on one warhead determined that the first word was Ukrainian for “from,” while a second Latin alphabet word related to an organisation in Kyiv, which the report did not identify.

The person who headed the organisation – also unidentified – had social media posts “indicating that they had donated funds to the Ukrainian military via a non-governmental organisation (NGO).”

Photographs of Uragan warheads posted online bearing messages written in Ukrainian were linked to a different Ukraine-based group, the report said.

Source: Reuters