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Last Updated: 17 December 2012

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Russia is heavily contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), much of it resulting from World War II and also from conflict in the North Caucasus since the early 1990s.


Mines have been used extensively in the two major conflicts in Chechnya. Estimates of the number vary greatly because there has been no effort to comprehensively assess the scope or impact of the problem.[1]In 2006, UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) discussed with the Chechen Government the possibility of providing technical support for mine and ERW impact survey, but they did not receive an official request from the Government. As of end-April 2011, according to the UNICEF-supported database, 3,132 civilians, including 772 children, have been killed (731) or wounded (2,401) by mines and ERW in Chechnya since 1994. Data collection in Chechnya, which was conducted by a local NGO partner Voice of the Mountains, was suspended in January 2011 due to lack of funding.[2]

Russia’s deputy prime minister and presidential special envoy to the Caucasus, Aleksandr Khloponin, claimed in 2010 that mine contamination affected 14km2 of land and posed a major obstacle to development.[3]In contrast, Chechen officials and human rights organizations have previously estimated that 245km2 of land was mine-affected, including 165km2of farmland and 73km2of woodland.[4]Chechen officials say some 2.5% of Chechnya’s total agricultural land is unusable because of mine and ERW contamination.[5]

Cluster munition remnants

Cluster munitions were used extensively by Russian Federation forces in Chechnya, during the 1994–1996 conflict and again during the recurrence of hostilities in 1999.[6] The extent of residual contamination from cluster munition remnants is not known.

Other explosive remnants of war

Russia contends with ERW from World War II in many areas but the extent is not known. In 2011, Russia’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons 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.[7] In the North Caucasus, ERW are also said to be a significant problem in Daghestan, especially in Botlikh, Buynaksk, and Novolaksky districts.[8] A World War II barge discovered in 2010 off the coast of the western enclave of Kalingrad was reported to contain more than 10,000 items of ordnance.[9]

Mine Action Program

Key institutions and operators


Situation on 1 January 2012

National Mine Action Authority


Mine action center

None, although “special committee” set up in Chechnya

International demining operators


National demining operators

Ministries of Defense, Emergency Situations, and of Internal Affairs

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)[10] through its specialized demining units (EMERCOM Demining and the “Leader” Center for Special Tasks).[11]

A special committee to deal with mine and ERW problems has been set up within Chechnya, comprising different ministries.[12]It is not known what concrete actions this committee has carried out.

In 2012, the head of the armed forces’ engineers, Major-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.[13]

The Ministry of Emergencies Chechnya had said in April 2009 that a unit of Russian deminers would be sent to clear 1.22km2 of agricultural land but there were no reports of follow-up action.[14] On 22 July 2009, the Minister of Emergency Situations, Sergey Shoygu, was reported to have officially stated that “within 10 days” the ministry would set up “special groups” to demine agricultural land in Chechnya. Following this statement, the president of Chechnya stated that all mines and ERW would be cleared from the territory of the republic in “a short time.”[15]

A representative of the Chechen branch of Russia’sMinistry of Emergency Situations claimedin May 2010 that 2.47km² of land had been cleared during the past five years, and that5,143 explosive devices and 21 air-dropped bombs had been“neutralized.”[16]  The same month, however, the Chechen Parliament reportedly resolved to request Moscow formally to assist with clearing minefields in the republic.[17] On 4 November 2010, the Chechen Government announced on its website that the Russian Federal Government had allocated 2.26 billion rubles (some €55 million) to demine agricultural areas in Chechnya.[18]

In 2011, UNICEF continued to raise mine action-related issues at quarterly coordination meetings with government representatives and local and international agencies. These meetings are co-chaired by UNICEF and the UNHCR.[19]

Land Release

Russia has continued to clear ordnance left over from World War II from its territory but has shown little commitment to clearing mines and ERW from Chechnya.

Mine and battle area clearance in 2011

Russia has not reported in detail on clearance operations in Chechnya. Russia’s latest Protocol V report stated that Armed Forces’ engineers destroyed more than 56,050 explosive items in 2011, including 16,720 “mines and grenades,” 17,998 mortar shells, 19,639 artillery shells, and 1,693 other explosive devices. The report said Ministry of Emergencies’ “specialists” conducted clearance in areas totaling 1.1km2 in Baskotorstan and Udmurtia in the Kirov region destroying another 3,791 explosive items. Divers also conducted operations to clear parts of the Dnieper river of World War 2 UXO and other items.[20]

Risk Education

UNICEF supported mine/ERW risk education (RE) in Chechnyauntil the end of December 2010 when it was forced to suspendthe program because of lack of funding.[21] RE continues to be provided in schools as part of the curriculum under a project launched by UNICEF and the Chechen Ministry of Education in 2002.[22] The ICRC reported in April 2012 that it helps local authorities organize mine awareness seminars for children and public education workers.[23]


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

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

[4]MoE sappers to demine arable land in Chechnya,” Kavkazskiyuzel, 3 April 2009; “In Chechnya MES deminers destroyed 25 explosive devices,” Kavkazskiyuzel, 5 October 2009, www.kavkaz-uzel.ru ; and “Human right activists: 25,000 hectares of Chechen territory are still mine studded,” Kavkazskiyuzel, 7 May 2008.

[5] Valery Dzutsev, “Chechen Officials Press Moscow to Assist with Demining as Blasts Still Claim Lives,” 11 May 2010, www.georgiandaily.com.

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

[7] CCW Protocol V Article 10 Report, Form A, 1 March 2011.

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

[10] See, for example,.: “It is planned to establish special groups for demining of lands within MES,” KavkazskiyUzel, 23 July 2009, www.kavkaz-uzel.ru.

[11] “Autumn demining is completed in Chechnya,” VestiKavkaza, 28 October 2009, www.vestikavkaza.org.

[12] UN, “2009 Portfolio of Mine Action Projects,” New York, 2008, p. 284.

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

[14] “MoE sappers to demine arable land in Chechnya,” Kavkazskiyuzel, 3 April 2009, www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/9766/.

[15] “Shoygu agreed to demine Chechnya,” Newsland, 22 July 2009, www.newsland.ru.

[16] Valery Dzutsev, “Chechen Officials Press Moscow to Assist with Demining as Blasts Still Claim Lives,” 11 May 2010, www.georgiandaily.com.

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

[19] Ibid.

[20] CCW Protocol V Article 10 Report, Form A, 15 March 2012.

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

[22] Ibid.

[23] ICRC responds to long-lasting needs,” Reliefweb Briefing Kit for the Russian Federation, 25 April 2012.