Human Rights Watch calls on Ukraine to investigate landmine accusations

Surrounded by soldiers the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a national flag-raising ceremony in the freed Izium, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Ukraine to investigate its military’s alleged use of landmines near the eastern Ukrainian city of Izyum.

The nonprofit human rights group said it has documented several cases in which the Ukrainian military fired rockets carrying antipersonnel mines in and around Izyum while it was occupied by Russian forces.

“Ukrainian forces appear to have extensively scattered landmines around the Izium area, causing civilian casualties and posing an ongoing risk,” Steve Goose, the arms division director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Russian forces have repeatedly used antipersonnel mines and committed atrocities across the country, but this doesn’t justify Ukrainian use of these prohibited weapons,” he added.

Russia first took control of Izyum in March 2022, about one month into its war in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces retook the city in September, amid a fairly successful counteroffensive last fall.

After Izyum was recaptured by Ukrainian forces, a mass burial site was discovered in the city and exhumed bodies reportedly showed signs of torture, according to Ukrainian authorities.

During the Russian occupation of Izyum, the Ukrainian military appears to have used landmines in nine areas around Izyum, resulting in 11 civilian deaths and about 50 civilian injuries, according to Human Rights Watch.

The human rights group found physical evidence of landmine use — including unexploded mines, the remnants of mines, the metal cassettes that carry the mines and the blast signatures of mines — at seven of the nine locations in Izyum. The two remaining locations were identified by witnesses.

Human Rights Watch noted that Ukraine is a signatory of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which banned the use of landmines. Russia, who is not a signatory of the treaty, has also employed other types of antipersonnel mines during the nearly yearlong war in Ukraine, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry reportedly responded to questions from the human rights group in late November, claiming that its military abides by its international obligations. However, it also noted that “information on the types of weapons used by Ukraine … is not to be commented on before the war ends.”

Tags 1997 Mine Ban Treaty Human Rights Watch Izium Izyum landmines Russia Russia-Ukraine war Ukraine Ukrainian defense ministry

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