Deadly mines outside Kyiv are cleared by Princess Diana’s charity


Deadly mines outside Kyiv are cleared by Princess Diana’s charity – thanks to YOUR donations to the Mail Force Ukraine appeal

  • Colonel Ruslan Bruhulic estimates  60,000 square miles need to be surveyed 
  • The Mail Force Ukraine Appeal raised £11.9m for mine detection equipment
  •  Halo Trust charity use these to find and destroy the devices in Ukraine

 In a field in the village of Hoholiv lies the charred wreckage of a people carrier. It struck an anti-tank mine as it trundled along a dirt road, costing a father one of his legs and injuring his children.

Nearby, work is under way to prevent further such tragedies – a delicate operation helped by the remarkable generosity of readers of The Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail.

A few miles east of Kyiv, Hoholiv was surrounded by Russian invaders earlier this year. Determined to halt their advance, Ukrainian forces lay a network of deadly mines.

Arya Bolotova, deputy operations manager for the Halo Trust, pictured in the fields surrounding the village of Hoholiv, north-east of the capital Kyiv

Arya Bolotova, deputy operations manager for the Halo Trust, pictured in the fields surrounding the village of Hoholiv, north-east of the capital Kyiv

Now that Vladimir Putin has abandoned, at least for the time being, his ambition to take Kyiv, the Halo Trust charity has started work to find and destroy the devices.

Its teams are armed with mine detection equipment bought with a £250,000 donation from the Mail Force Ukraine Appeal, which has raised £11.9 million in total.

‘My son knows that I am doing an important job and that I am doing it for him as well – for his safety and for the future of our children,’ said Arya Bolotova, 35, the charity’s deputy operations manager in Ukraine. Indeed, Herman, eight, proudly tells his schoolmates about his mother’s work. ‘He’s proud that I do the job and he asks me every day if I found mines,’ she said.

The work is painstaking and exhausting. Using Ukrainian maps and avoiding Russian booby traps, teams scan the ground with large metal detectors to find the anti-tank devices before destroying them. It will take a month to clear an area measuring little more than 300m (330 yards) by 300m in Hoholiv.

The Halo Trust, whose work in Angola in the 1990s was highlighted by Princess Diana, has been clearing explosives in eastern Ukraine since 2016, but was forced to withdraw when Russia invaded in February. Its work in western Ukraine will take at least a decade and staff are fearful of what they will find when, or if, they return to the east.

Halo Trust mine clearance staff pictured in the fields surrounding the village of Hoholiv

Halo Trust mine clearance staff pictured in the fields surrounding the village of Hoholiv

Colonel Ruslan Bruhulic, who co-ordinates landmine clearance for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, estimates more than 60,000 square miles will need to be surveyed for the mines hampering a return to normal life for many. ‘Infrastructure is affected,’ he said. ‘Power supply workers cannot approach electricity pylons for fear of landmines in some areas.

‘People cannot even go on to their farmland to collect strawberries. We are very grateful to Mail Force. Your support will promote safety and a return to normal for local residents.’

In Makariv, to the west of Kyiv, an agricultural lorry smoulders beside a cornfield after hitting explosives left by Russian troops. ‘This driver miraculously survived, but it is going to make it considerably more difficult to get food off the farm because the farmers will be concerned there are more anti-tank mines here,’ said Simon Conway, of the Halo Trust, as he looked at the wreckage.

‘A lot of what we’re doing at the moment is opening up roads, opening up access… the support we are getting from the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday means these people will be able to get their food to the market and around the world people won’t starve.’

The Mail Force Ukraine Appeal was kick-started by a £500,000 donation from the Mail’s parent company, the Daily Mail and General Trust, at the request of DMGT chairman Lord Rothermere and Lady Rothermere.

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