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Ukraine war: country in desperate need of de-mining, deadly consequences of conflict for civilians

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Ukraine war: country in desperate need of de-mining, deadly consequences of prolonged conflict

Ukraine war: country in desperate need of de-mining, deadly consequences of conflict for civilians

Ukraine's State Emergency Service said last week that 300,000 square kilometres — an area the size of Arizona or Italy — must be cleared of mines and the task will likely take years.

Vadym Schvydchenko was driving his truck down a dirt track in Ukraine's agricultural heartland when his rear right wheel hit a Soviet-era TM-62 anti-tank mine.

The detonation of the 7.5-kilogram (16-pound) explosive charge blew Vadym Schvydchenko out of the cabin. The truck — and his livelihood — went up in flames.

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Astoundingly, the 40-year-old escaped with just minor leg and head wounds.

Others aren't having such luck. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is spreading a deadly litter of mines, bombs and myriad other explosive devices that will endanger civilian lives and limbs for years after the fighting stops.

Often, the victims of blasts are farmers, workers, and others with little choice but to use mined roads and plow mined fields.

As Schvydchenko was counting his blessings, his head ringing, and fire crews were dousing the blaze, his wife desperately tried calling him, not knowing that his phone had been incinerated, too, along with the cargo of sand he'd been transporting — to fill up another bomb crater.

Now his days of carefree driving through fields are done for the foreseeable future.

Ukraine is now one of the most mined countries in Europe, with civilians blown up and killed every week.

The east of the country, fought over with Russia-backed separatists since 2014, was already one of the world's most mine-contaminated regions even before the Feb. 24 full-scale Russian invasion multiplied the scale and complexity of the dangers, to a degree impossible to accurately quantify in the fog of battles raging now in the east and south.

Mairi Cunningham, who leads explosive clearance efforts in Ukraine for de-mining NGO the Halo Trust says desperation is causing people to take risks around the mines.

"People are very eager to cultivate the land, they want to plant crops, they're expecting, you know, to be able to deliver grain to the rest of the world" he said, adding: "they're taking risks that might surprise you and I, but they're feeling under pressure to do so."

His charity got an additional $4 million of U.S. government funding in May to grow its work in the country.

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