Last Updated: 24 August 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

The Russian Federation is heavily contaminated with mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) as a result of World War II, the two Chechen wars (1994–6 and 1999–2009), and minor conflicts in the Caucasian republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria.

Antipersonnel and antivehicle mines were used extensively in the two major conflicts in Chechnya. Estimates of the extent of contamination vary greatly because no systematic effort has been undertaken to assess the scope or impact of the problem.[1] In 2010, Russia’s deputy prime minister and presidential special envoy to the Caucasus, Aleksandr Khloponin, claimed that mine contamination affected 14km2 of land and posed a major obstacle to development.[2] In contrast, Chechen officials and human rights organizations have previously estimated that 245km2 of land was mine-affected, including 165km2 of farmland and 73km2 of woodland.[3]

As of 2011, according to UNICEF, 3,132 civilians, including 772 children, had been killed (731) or wounded (2,401) by mines and ERW in Chechnya since 1994. Data collection, which was conducted by a local NGO partner Voice of the Mountains, was suspended in January 2011 due to lack of funding.[4]

Cluster munitions were used extensively by Russian Federation forces in Chechnya during the 1994–1996 and the 1999–2009 wars.[5] The extent of residual contamination from cluster munition remnants is unknown. Russia is also heavily affected by ERW from World War II in many areas but the extent is not known. In 2011, Russia’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Protocol V transparency report recorded clearance in 2010 in Amur, Kirov, and Penza regions as well as in Chechnya and around the city of Ulyanov.[6] In the North Caucasus, ERW are also said to be a significant problem in Dagestan, especially in Botlikh, Buynaksk, and Novolaksky districts.[7]

Alleged use of mines in Crimea in 2014

On 8 March 2014, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported that “Russian combat engineers were seen placing mines in the land bridge connecting the [Crimean] peninsula to the mainland in order to foil any Ukrainian attempt to retake Crimea.”[8] The photographer Evgeny Feldman of the Russian publication Novaya Gazeta photographed an apparent minefield laid near a road leading into Crimea and close to the villages of Chongar and Nikolaevka, in Kherson Province, Ukraine. The photographs show a line of mounds of earth in a field and “Danger Mines” warning signs.[9]

Members of the local population have informed Ukrainian partners of ICBL that Russian Special Forces operating in Kherson Province have laid minefields, but it was not possible to confirm the reports, including if any mines laid were antipersonnel or antivehicle.[10] On 7 March 2014, Ukrainian media reported that Russian military had mined areas around the main gas line into Crimea, but this allegation was not independently verified.[11] Russia has denied all use of antipersonnel mines, suggesting only trip flares (also known as signal mines) have been used.[12]

Mine Action Program

There is no formal civilian mine action program in Russia and no national mine action authority. Mine clearance is carried out by Federal Ministry of Defense engineers, demining brigades of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and by the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES), through its specialized demining units (Demining and the “Leader” Center for Special Tasks, EMERCOM).[13]

In 2012, the head of the armed forces’ engineers, Lieutenant–General Yuri Stavitsky, reportedly announced that the Federal Ministry of Defense had sent military engineers to Chechnya to undertake clearance of about 0.5km² of farmland. He said a special battalion of deminers employing contract servicemen was undergoing training for deployment in Russia’s southern military district, including Chechnya.[14]

In May 2010, a representative of the Chechen branch of Russia’s MES claimed that 2.47km² of land had been cleared during the past five years, and that 5,143 explosive devices and 21 air-dropped bombs had been “neutralized.”[15]On 4 November 2010, the Chechen government announced on its website that the Russian Federal Government had allocated RUB2.26 billion (some €55 million) to demine agricultural areas in Chechnya.[16]

Land Release

Russia has continued to clear ordnance left over from World War II from its territory but has shown insufficient commitment to clearing mines and ERW from Chechnya and other affected areas in the North Caucasus.

In 2014, Russia’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Amended Protocol II report stated that more than 400,000 mines and explosive items were found and destroyed in 2013, claiming that clearance had been conducted over an area of more than 84,000 hectares. This huge area of demining (840km2) is not plausible, at least as far as mine clearance is concerned.[17]

In March 2014, the engineering unit of the Russian Ministry of Defense started a new phase of clearance in Chechnya. The engineering unit planned to clear 8,000 hectares of contaminated land in Achkhoy-Martan and Grozny districts, and in the highlands of Shatoy and Vedeno districts. In 2013, the same unit demined more than 2,000 hectares of agricultural lands, destroying over 1,700 explosive items.[18]


[1] UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), “Portfolio of Mine Action Projects 2009,” New York, 2008, p. 284.

[4] Email from Eliza Murtazaeva, Project Officer, Child Protection, UNICEF Vladikavkaz, 2 May 2011.

[5] Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions, Government Policy and Practice,” Mines Action Canada, May 2009, p. 233.

[7] See, for example, UNMAS, “Portfolio of Mine Action Projects 2009,” New York, 2008, p. 284.

[8] Anshel Pfeffer, “Shots fired to warn off European monitors from Crimea,” Haaretz, 8 March 2014.

[9]Между Крымом и Украиной уже минные поля, армейские лагеря и бронемашины” (“Between Crimea and Ukraine there are already minefields, armoured vehicles and army camps”), Novaya Gazeta, 8 March 2014.

[11] Ibid.

[13] See, for example, “It is planned to establish special groups for demining of lands within MES,” Caucasian Knot, 23 July 2009; and “Autumn demining is completed in Chechnya,” Vesti Kavkaza, 28 October 2009.

[14]Russia begins mine clearing in Chechnya,” Novosti, 4 April 2012.

[15] Valery Dzutsev, “Chechen Officials Press Moscow to Assist with Demining as Blasts Still Claim Lives,” Georgian Daily, 11 May 2010.

[16] Email from Eliza Murtazaeva, UNICEF Vladikavkaz, 2 May 2011.

[17] CCW Amended Protocol II Report, Form B, 15 March 2014.

[18]In Chechnya, servicemen start another phase of demining,” Caucasian Knot, 15 March 2014; and “Минобороны России начнёт разминирование чеченских гор в 2014 году” (“Russian Ministry of Defense starts demining Chechen mountains in 2014”), TVC, December 2013.