The US State Department intends to provide $89 million in support of demining efforts in Ukraine as the nation faces “one of the largest landmine and unexploded ordnance challenges in decades” due to the war, a State Department official said Tuesday.
The assistance will go toward funding 100 demining teams who will work “in areas where there's the greatest amount of contamination” over the next year, the official said in a call with reporters.
The United States will provide training and equipment to the demining teams, the official said. They declined to say specifically where the training will take place but said “it's going to be an area that makes it as easy as possible for Ukrainian government employees, Ukrainian government deminers to receive that training as efficiently as possible and return to where they're needed most as quickly as possible.”
The $89 million will not go directly to the government of Ukraine, but rather to non-governmental organizations and contractors who work with the government teams.
“We are aware that Russia is using a bunch of different types of cluster munitions,” the official said, noting the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s claim that “Russia's forces deliberately hid explosives in toys and shiny objects to attract children's attention.”
“This horrific use of improvised explosive devices by Russia's forces is reminiscent of ISIS tactics back in Syria,” they said.
The official also referenced the Ukrainian government’s estimate that 160,000 square kilometers of territory “may be contaminated by land mines and unexploded ordnance,” noting “that's an area roughly the size of Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut, combined.”
However, the official noted the exact scope of mine contamination is difficult to determine as the war with Russia is ongoing.”
“I think it's safe to say that this is a challenge that Ukraine will face for decades,” they said.
Asked about the fact that the Biden administration has sent Claymore mines to Ukraine, the official said the ones provided by the US are configured to have a person who needs to pull the trigger, and as such the US does not consider them to be anti-personnel mines.
“They're provided so that there's a soldier making the decision on whether it's deployed,” they said. “It's not just simply left out there for a child to stumble upon.”