This Technical Briefing Note reviews the types of landmines documented in the Ukraine conflict since early 2014, specifically focusing on mines that can function as antipersonnel mines.
There is significant evidence from various locations that several types of landmines were available to parties to the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels that erupted in early 2014, initially in Crimea in the south, then in Ukraine’s eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
While it is clear that antipersonnel mines were used on a limited and localized scale, it is not possible at this time to concretely determine the responsibility of any party for using antipersonnel mines or other devices such as victim-activated booby-traps prohibited by the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
Ukraine signed the Mine Ban Treaty prohibiting antipersonnel mines on February 24, 1999 and became a State Party on June 1, 2006. Russia has not joined the Mine Ban Treaty.
However, the numerous reports and images of antipersonnel mines and explosive devices capable of being victim-activated raises questions about the security of the stockpile of antipersonnel mines retained for training and research purposes by Ukraine under the treaty and the possible importation of banned mines from neighboring Russia since the beginning of the conflict in early 2014.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which Human Rights Watch co-founded and chairs, has expressed concern at reports of use and seizures of landmines in Ukraine. It urges parties to the conflict to ensure no antipersonnel mines are used by any actor and to destroy any antipersonnel mines they have seized or otherwise acquired.
This Technical Briefing Note draws on evidence collected, including witness accounts, in the course of field investigations by Human Rights Watch researchers in Ukraine. It also reviews evidence from a number of other sources, including:
- Videos and photos taken by journalists on assignment in the region and shared on Twitter, Facebook, and directly with Human Rights Watch;
- Threat information shared with Human Rights Watch by international demining experts and armament research specialists;
- Displays of weaponry seized by the Ukrainian government;
- Landmine Monitor 2014 mine ban profile on Ukraine.