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Everywhere You Look, a Skull and Crossbones – Russia Has Literally Turned Ukraine Into a Minefield

KHERSON OBLAST, Ukraine – More than two years of fighting with Russia has made Ukraine one of the world’s most mined countries. CBN News traveled to a frontline area where Ukrainian forces are in one of the largest mine clearing operations since World War 2.
 
“You have to always look on the ground and also keep your eyes ahead. Look left, look right, in front of you, and certainly under your feet,” Ukrainian Army Engineer Yaroslav Kastran told us.
 
For Kastran, every step brings deadly risk. “You need to be brave to do this job,” he said.
 
A husband and father of two, Kastran is part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces’ elite mine-clearing division.
   
“Every day my wife tells me to take care of myself. I’m on a mission to clean my land of everything evil that Russia brought to us so that the kids and people who walk these fields and through the roads can do so without any danger to themselves,” he explained.
 
At an undisclosed field near Ukraine’s frontline here in the south, Kastran invited CBN News to witness as he and fellow mine clearers scoured what was once a battlefront with Russian forces. 
 
In almost every direction you look, you see red signs. A skull and crossbones with a warning: “Danger Mines!” In other spots, sticks with red and white paint dot the landscape warning people to keep out.

“Very often here we find anti-tank mines called TM-62. There are anti-infantry mines, also called land mines. We’ve seen cluster munitions, grenades, shrapnel from Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and other dangerous explosives,” Kastran said.

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The Russians have deployed countless land mines here in Ukraine. One in particular is a new kind and extremely deadly. It’s called the POM-2 and POM-3 land mine. 
 
“The kill zone from a POM-2 or POM-3 is 20 meters, so this means death, and if you are more than 20 meters away, you may be wounded by shrapnel. So it’s easier to disarm it in an open area because you can see it from far away. But in tall grass it is very difficult to detect because they are very thin,” Kastran said.
 
More than two years after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine is clogged with explosives.
 
“Ukraine is one of the most mined countries in the world right now. Roughly 30 percent of the country has mines. It will take many years to de-mine and get back to our normal life, but we are working on it,” Kastran said.
 
The mines have slowed Ukraine’s efforts to launch counteroffensives in Russian-occupied territories. 
 
“Russia isn’t sleeping and it is dreaming about getting back to our country and destroying our family and our nation,” Kastran said.
 
In this conflict zone area alone, with about 1,000 bomb disposal experts deployed, officials say more than 155,000 Russian mines, trip wires, unexploded shells, and other explosives have been destroyed.
 
It’s all happening as war rages just a few miles away. Often at the forefront of combat operations, Kastran’s unit’s motto is “To stay ahead, to safe life,”
 
“There’s no active combat right here, but above our heads rockets and Iranian drones are flying and from time to time artillery shellings happen,” he said. “Today we are working these fields; tomorrow we may be fighting in combat and we have to be ready for it.”
 
In a nearby field where farmer Andrii Snadyk is preparing to plant seeds, he’s grateful that Kastran’s men have left his plot of land mine-free.
 
“If it wasn’t for these guys, who else would help us?” Snadyk said. “War is war, but we need to work as well, so big thanks to them for helping us get back on our feet.”
 
Ukraine says these Russian mines have killed nearly 1,000 people – the majority of them civilians.
 
“I’m not afraid of death. No, I’m ready for it. I consciously chose this job and I know that death is a very real possibility,” Kastran said. 

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