Ukraine landmines

A Ukrainian soldier patrols past a landmines warning sign displayed on the fence of the cemetery of the town of Svyatogirsk, Donetsk region, on June 22, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

(Photo: Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images)

HRW Urges Accountability as Evidence of 'Devastating' Ukrainian Landmine Use Mounts

"Russian war crimes should not justify Ukrainian ones," stressed one human rights campaigner.

After gathering fresh evidence of the Ukrainian military's continued use of internationally banned antipersonnel landmines in their battle against Russian forces that invaded in early 2022, Human Rights Watch on Friday reiterated calls for Kyiv to stop using such weapons and hold anyone who has done so accountable.

Earlier this year, HRW documented Ukrainian homeland defenders' repeated firing of rockets scattering internationally banned antipersonnel mines last year "in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Izium," a region occupied by Russian invaders.

HRW said Ukraine's launch of thousands of PFM-1 'petal' or 'butterfly' mines resulted in 11 verified civilian casualties, including one death and multiple lower leg amputations.

"These antipersonnel mines have had immediate and devastating consequences for civilians in and around Izium, including by tearing off limbs of residents as they go about their daily lives," Ida Sawyer, the director of HRW's crisis and conflict division, toldThe Washington Post on Friday.

The Ukrainian government has vowed to investigate the military's use of such inherently indiscriminate weapons that are banned under the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, to which Ukraine is a signatory.

"Ukraine, exercising its right to self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, fully implements its international obligations while Russian occupants commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide of the Ukrainian people," the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

Unlike Ukraine, Russia is not bound by the Mine Ban Treaty. HRW says Russian forces have "used at least 13 types of antipersonnel mines in multiple areas across Ukraine, killing and injuring civilians."

HRW arms director Steve Goose said Friday that "the Ukrainian government's pledge to investigate its military's apparent use of banned antipersonnel mines is an important recognition of its duty to protect civilians."

"A prompt, transparent, and thorough inquiry could have far-reaching benefits for Ukrainians." he added, "both now and for future generations."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.