Deadly harvest

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

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.

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