As people in Kyiv enjoyed the hot weather of late summer and the pleasant early autumn sunshine, the war in the east could seem very far away.
Not so for one family in Volodarske near Mariupol, whose four-year-old child was killed on Aug. 24 after picking up an unexploded shell. Three other children aged from eight to 10 were severely wounded in the same incident.
And in an incident on Sept. 9, a 72-year-old pensioner was badly wounded when the hoe she was using while gardening struck a buried unexploded shell and set it off.
Unexploded ordinance and poorly marked or unmarked minefields can be found all along the line of contact between the warring sides in the Donbas. As the season for gathering crops approaches, Ukrainians risk reaping a deadly harvest of unexploded shells.
The massive amount of ammunition expended by Russian regular and proxy forces in the Donbas is also an under-reported piece of evidence of Russia’s direct participation in the conflict in Ukraine. According to Ukrainian military sources, a single Russian artillery unit used 150 tons of ammunition in one day last February during the Russian army’s assault on the town of Debaltseve.
Since it can be reasonably assumed that ammunition does not grow on trees in the Donbas, that huge amount of ordinance must have come from somewhere, and that somewhere was Russia. It is regularly supplied across Ukraine’s open border with Russia in the Donbas - otherwise the Russianseparatist forces would have run out of bullets, and tank, artillery and mortar shells long ago.
A lot of that ammunition, having been long held in storage and being of poor quality manufacture in the first place, is dud. When fired, some shells impact the ground and bury themselves there without exploding.
But they can still be set off by an old woman hoeing the ground, or if they are picked up by a child. The recent incidents with the children and the old woman are a grim reminder that the war in Ukraine, even if the present ceasefire holds, will still be claiming lives for a long time to come.