A convention aimed at eliminating landmine usage is raising concerns about the alleged application of them by Ukraine.
The war-torn nation is among the 164 member states of The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also known as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. If a report released this week by Human Rights Watch (HRW) is true, it would mean that Ukraine is not in full compliance with the treaty, the convention said in a Friday news release.
Thomas Göbel, convention president and German ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said the ban on these mines “must be respected” by all nations in “times of war as in peace.”
“We therefore take seriously a report by Human Rights Watch about the alleged use of anti-personnel mines by members of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Göbel said.
Ukraine has said it “has always demonstrated its readiness for cooperation” with organizations like HRW, adding that Ukrainian officials will review the report.
The HRW report released on January 31 urged Ukraine to look into the alleged use of “thousands” of anti-personnel mines by its military. The mines were allegedly used around Izyum, a city in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast, while the city was under Russian control last year. Ukraine claimed victory over Russian troops in September when Ukrainian soldiers regained control of Izyum.
The report said HRW “documented numerous cases” of anti-personnel mines being “fired into Russian-occupied areas near Russian military facilities.” Russia, which is not a convention member state, has also used the mines in Ukraine over the course of the war, HRW said.
HRW Arms Division Director Steve Goose said in the report that Ukrainian soldiers “appear to have extensively scattered landmines” around Izyum, which are “causing civilian casualties and posing an ongoing risk.” Though Russia has also allegedly used these kinds of mines, that “doesn’t justify Ukrainian use of these prohibited weapons,” Goose said.
HRW said it found examples of anti-personnel mine use in nine places within and near Izyum. The report said HRW also linked 11 civilian casualties to those mines.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine released a statement in response to HRW that said the report’s contents would be “duly studied.” It identified the landmine treaty as an “important” tool and urged the international community to “increase pressure” on Russia to “immediately cease the criminal war against Ukraine with its use of the entire range of inhumane weapons and to return to compliance with the international law.”
The statement also said Ukraine has cooperated with the convention to destroy about 3 million anti-personnel mines, while Russia deploys “all spectrum of prohibited mines.”
Göbel mentioned Ukraine’s response to the report in the convention’s Friday news release, saying he is “confident that we can continue to fully rely on Ukraine’s cooperation” as the convention seeks “clarification” on the report’s allegations.
Three days after the report was released, seven teenagers were reportedly injured after an anti-personnel mine detonated in Izyum. Oleg Sinegubov, head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, said Friday on Telegram that the teenagers, all age 14 to 17, suffered shrapnel wounds. None were seriously hurt, he said, but five were hospitalized for treatment.
It was not immediately clear from where the detonated mine originated. Sinegubov warned local residents that there is a “high mine danger” in parts of Kharkiv Oblast previously occupied by Russian troops and urged anyone who suspects they have found a mine to contact Ukraine’s State Emergency Service.
Newsweek has reached out to Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.