The Biden administration is providing $89 million in de-mining assistance to Ukraine to fund 100 teams to be sent to the country over the next year, a State Department official said on Tuesday.
The official said that the push, the largest de-mining effort for the US in Ukraine, is in direct response to the “overwhelming humanitarian needs caused by Russia's unlawful, unprovoked invasion".
The US accused Russian forces of using explosive munitions in irresponsible and brutal manner, “causing civilian casualties, extensive harm to vital civilian infrastructure and contaminating a massive amount of Ukraine's territory with unexploded ordnance".
The assistance will be sent within weeks. It will be used in areas where Russia retreated in Ukraine, an area as big as 160,000 square kilometres that may be scattered with landmines and unexploded ordnance.
“That's an area roughly the size of [the US states of] Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut combined,” the US official said.
The official said that same area included about 10 per cent of Ukraine's farmland, making this a hazardous problem directly contributing to food insecurity worldwide.
The official said that Ukraine would be leading the efforts, but that the US government was working with Kyiv to identify specific training sites and addressing the most contaminated areas.
The tactics that Russia has used are similar to those of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the official said.
“This horrific use of improvised explosive devices by Russia’s forces is reminiscent of ISIS tactics in Iraq and Syria, where ISIS terrorists sought to inflict as many civilian casualties as possible and make people afraid to return home."
But the US effort will not involve sending American personnel to Ukraine for now, nor will it relate to areas that Russia now controls.
“We do not envision any US government personnel being on the ground providing hands-on assessment or explosive ordnance as part of this $89m assistance package," the official said.
"This assistance is going to be implemented exclusively by NGOs and contractors."
The official told The National that the US is already doing work with the Halo Trust charity, which has developed a unique system of tracking down live bombs.
According to Human Rights Watch, Russian forces have used at least seven types of anti-personnel mines in at least four regions of Ukraine: Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Sumy.
“This marks an unusual situation in which a country that is not party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty uses the weapon on the territory of a party to the treaty,” the organisation said.