UK Ambassador to Ukraine sees landmine clearance funded by the British Government

Brovary, Ukraine – The UK’s Ambassador from Her Majesty’s Government in Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, visited the British mine clearance charity The HALO Trust at work on a minefield in northern Ukraine yesterday, to mark the 6-month anniversary of the invasion of Kyiv and showcase UK aid for HALO’s work.

The minefield visited by Ms Simmons was in a forest near the village of Zalissa, north-east of Brovary. The village came under repeated shelling and was occupied by Russian forces for 24 days in March, but returned to Ukrainian control in April. However many houses remain destroyed and there a substantial amount of cluster munitions, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines still hidden in the area. At least one local resident has been killed by hitting a tripwire which detonated an OZM-72 anti-personnel bounding fragmentation mine while walking in the forest.

The HALO Trust is the world’s largest humanitarian mine clearance organisation and has been operating in Ukraine since 2015. Prior to March 2022, its 400 Ukrainian workforce was based in Kramatorsk, where it was clearing anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and booby traps. HALO relocated from the Donbas to Brovary in northern Ukraine immediately after Russian forces withdrew from the Kyiv area, taking many of its original workforce with it and actively recruiting new deminers from the Kyiv region. Today, HALO is clearing mines and remnants of war in various locations in Kyiv and Chernihiv regions.

During the Ambassador’s visit, Her Excellency met Tetiana Fediuk, one of the HALO Trust’s first female deminers. Tetiana comes from a small village in Luhansk region and received the ‘best deminer of 2018’ accolade after one year of service. Although her home village was occupied by Russian forces in, she managed to leave the Donbas to join HALO operations in Kyiv. Tetiana met Her Majesty’s Ambassador at a breakfast event organised by the British Embassy in October 2021, where she shared her experiences as female deminer with Ms Simmons. Yesterday, after six months of war in Ukraine, they met again in Tetiana’s professional domain.

Her Majesty's Ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons said: “After six months of this barbaric war, Russia has contaminated much of Ukraine with deadly landmines.

Today I visited the HALO Trust site in Brovary, Kyiv, to understand the horrific wreckage to families, livelihoods and farmland caused by these deliberately planted landmines. The continued Russian targeting of innocent people is abhorrent.

I saw the commitment of the de-miners, many of them Ukrainian men and women, working away from their children or with family members fighting on the frontline. Their courage is inspirational.

The UK Government is supporting HALO Trust with £2 million in funding for demining and risk education to protect the most vulnerable communities and help the Ukrainian people take back their land and lives from this deadly threat.”

Mairi Cunningham, Programme Manager of HALO Ukraine said:

Today [Wednesday 24 March] marks six months since the invasion of Russian forces in Ukraine. Many of my demining colleagues endured weeks of suffering in Mariupol and elsewhere in the Donbas but are determined to work with HALO to remove the explosive remnants of war in their country. We are deeply grateful to Ambassador Simmons for showing her support during yesterday’s visit and would like to thank her and the FCDO for the emergency £2m funding to assist with HALO’s work here. Thanks to UK Aid, British taxpayers can be assured they are directly contributing to saving lives and livelihoods in Ukraine.

Clearing landmines and explosive ordnance is not only necessary for saving lives, but also to help Ukrainian farmers get Ukrainian crops back on the roads and out to export. This will be key if we are avoid the global food crisis triggered by the events of March 2022.

ENDS

For imagery and B-roll of Ms Simmons’s visit and recordings of her conversing with HALO staff and pieces to camera please email paul.mccann@halotrust.org or graeme.donohoe@fcdo.gov.uk For in-studio or down the line live/pre-recorded interviews for UK broadcast with Mike Newton, Head of HALO Europe, please email paul.mccann@halotrust.org

Notes to editors

1. The HALO Trust is the world’s largest humanitarian landmine clearance organisation with 10,000 employees working in 29 countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Yemen and Angola.

2. FCDO signed a £2M agreement with the HALO Trust in May 2022 under the Global Mine Action Programme (GMAP3), to fund urgent survey, clearance and risk education mine action activities in Ukraine until end March 23. The FCDO intends to increase its ambition for mine action in Ukraine in future years through a competitive procurement process.

3. GMAP3 received a settlement of up to £100M over the next three years. As well as Ukraine, it is currently active in seven other countries, with plans in place to extend country coverage over time mainly through a competitive procurement process.

4. HALO Ukraine is rapidly recruiting new deminers in order to more than double its workforce by the end of 2022 so it can meet the clearance needs of the country.

Source: Government of the United Kingdom