Clearing world's most mined country: British instructors train Ukrainian sappers in Poland
BBC journalists visited the training base and talked to Ukrainian sappers about Russia's tricky minefields
The BBC writes that day after the full-scale Russian invasion started in February 2022, Denys volunteered to fight. He has not left Ukraine since 2021, and this quick trip to Poland marks the first time in almost two years that he has witnessed passenger aircraft passing above.
The most hazardous job in the world, according to Denys, is explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). He states, "We need more sappers; we do not have enough of them."
The mines that have already been laid, according to Denys, would take hundreds of years to clean even if the conflict ended tomorrow.
The minefields created by Russians can be as deep as 10km (6.2 miles), and they are currently dispersed throughout an area the size of Florida. Five bombs can fit inside just one square meter.
Minefields are becoming increasingly complex
Ihor, who has been serving as a sapper for four years, says he has lost more than ten of his teammates. One team of sappers may have to handle more than 100 devices each day, he claims. Additionally, they frequently have to clear locations that are still exposed to Russian artillery and light weapon fire.
Thia is one of the causes for why they operate primarily at night.
Russian forces are also purposefully targeting Ukrainian sappers to impede their advance.
"When we advance, we have to take higher risks. We don't always have time to see if the mines are booby trapped", says Igor
To produce more powerful explosions, Russia has begun piling anti-tank mines on top of one another. To set off the larger explosive, smaller anti-personnel mines are also stacked on top of vehicle mines.Trip wires are often hidden in the grass.
Additionally, the Russians now hang them from trees with connected hooks in an effort to seize the uniforms and equipment of advancing soldiers.
It can take time and effort to clear a way through these dangerous hidden traps. To clear a route, the Ukrainian sappers first utilize Vallons, which look like metal detectors.
1,500 of them have already been given to Ukraine by Britain. The sappers descend on their knees and stomachs to assess the danger when the Vallon cries. Working by hand can be arduous.
Before noticing a trip wire, Denys observes the ants crawling over the ground. He chuckles, "You guys make it hard," he laughs.
Deminers are often targets for artillery
The biggest difficulty is not making the device secure. Ihor claims that prior to the invasion, he was already familiar with the kinds of mines that the Russians employ. Mines can be easily disarmed, but the Russians are making it harder.
The British teachers compare it to puzzling out or playing chess.
All of the British trainers praise the Ukrainians' pace. “They're very quick. The first time I deployed to Afghanistan I was slow. They don't miss much," claims Staff Sgt. Engstrom.
Finding the minefields and understanding why they were put there is the true issue. It is frequently done on purpose to draw in troops that artillery can then target.
This training just got underway in November. Each school lasts only a few weeks and consists of a small group of skilled Ukrainian sappers. That demonstrates the strong need for them to return to the front lines.