WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday that it uncovered new evidence of the indiscriminate use by Ukrainian forces of banned anti-personnel landmines against Russian troops who invaded Ukraine in 2022.
The group called on Ukraine’s government to follow through with a commitment made earlier this month not to employ such weapons, investigate their suspected use and hold accountable those responsible.
“The Ukrainian government’s pledge to investigate its military’s apparent use of banned anti-personnel mines is an important recognition of its duty to protect civilians,” Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch’s arms director, said in a statement.
HRW said it shared its findings with the Ukrainian government in a May letter to which it received no response.
Ukraine’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Ukraine in 2005 ratified a 1997 international treaty banning such mines and mandating the destruction of stocks of the weapons.
Russia did not join the treaty and its use of anti-personnel mines “violates international humanitarian law … because they are inherently indiscriminate,” the report said.
Anti-personnel mines are detonated by a person’s presence, proximity or contact and can kill and maim long after a conflict ends.
Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, HRW has published four reports documenting the use by Russian troops of 13 types of anti-personnel mines that killed and injured civilians.
The new report is a follow-on to a January report that Ukrainian soldiers fired rockets that scattered thousands of PMF-1 mines in Russian-occupied areas in and around the eastern city of Izium between April and September 2022, when Kyiv’s forces recaptured it.
The latest report said that fresh evidence of Ukrainian forces’ use of anti-personnel mines in 2002 came from photographs posted online by an individual working in eastern Ukraine that showed warhead sections of Uragan 220mm rockets.
Those rockets each indiscriminately disburse 312 PFM-1S anti-personnel mines, said the report.
Analysis of handwriting on one warhead determined that the first word was Ukrainian for “from,” while a second Latin alphabet word related to an organization in Kyiv, which the report did not identify.
The person who headed the organization – also unidentified – had social media posts “indicating that they had donated funds to the Ukrainian military via a non-governmental organization (NGO).”
Photographs of Uragan warheads posted online bearing messages written in Ukrainian were linked to a different Ukraine-based group, the report said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Don Durfee and Grant McCool)
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