+   *    +     +     
About Us 
The Issues 
Our Research Products 
Order Publications 
Press Room 
Resources for Monitor Researchers 
Table of Contents
Country Reports
CHECHNYA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999



In September 1991, Chechnya proclaimed independence from Russia. The Chechens adopted the full name Chechen Republic Ichkeria. On 11 December 1994, the Russian Federation sent troops into the Chechen Republic and used mines extensively. On 20 August 1996, talks on a peace agreement were held. The Khasav-Yurt agreements were signed, in which a decision on the Chechen Republic Ichkeria’s status was delayed till 1 January 2001. Today, the Chechen leadership claims that the Republic is independent, and urges the leadership of Russia to recognize this, although Russia maintains that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation. The current legal status of Chechnya is undefined: Russian officials insist that Chechnya is undisputedly a subject of the Russian Federation and that Russian law must apply there; Chechen officials insist on the independence of Chechen government institutions (but are careful to state their willingness to cooperate with Russian governmental and legal bodies) and allow that Russian law may apply so long as it does not contradict Chechen law.

The humanitarian situation in Chechnya has deteriorated steadily since the end of the war, creating worsening conditions of great human need and a catastrophic lack of humanitarian assistance. The problem is exacerbated by the withdrawal of nearly all international organizations from the Republic due to the security situation.

Mine Ban Policy

Chechnya is not an internationally-recognized sovereign state, and therefore cannot sign the Mine Ban Treaty. The Chechen Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Akhiad Idigov has expressed his support for the Mine Ban Treaty, and said that the Chechen Republic Ichkeria would be ready to send its official representatives to sign the landmine ban treaty.[1] At the same time, many military officials say APMs are indispensable because of the existing threat of war and shortage of other kinds of arms in the Chechen army.


It is unclear if, or how much, landmine production capability was located in Chechnya before the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It is believed that there is currently no domestic production of mines in Chechnya. Some plants in the Chechen Republic have produced military materiel -- the Krasny Molot plant repaired tanks, the Anisimov and Lenin chemical plants produced fuels and other military components, the Elektropribor plant produced military electronics -- but it is unclear at this time if any of these plants produced landmine components in the past or what their capability is to do so in the future.[2]


Chechnya has not made an official declaration regarding its position on the export or import of APMs. The landmines that are in the republic were brought in during Soviet times and were kept in depots with other ammunition. During the war, it appears that Chechens obtained antipersonnel mines from two sources: Chechens bought mines from Russian soldiers and officers, and mines also came from the Trans-Caucasus, delivered by groups on horseback across the mountains. Chechnya has not exported mines.

On the internal black market one can find almost any kind of mine produced in Russia. The average black market price of a mine is not more than $10. Non-Russian mines are rare.


It is not possible to get accurate information on the quantity of mines in Chechen stockpiles, but they consist mostly of Soviet-produced PMN and OZM mines. According to Mr. M. Arsaliev, the chief deminer of the Chechen Republic, the pre-war arsenal stored in the Chechen Republic consisted mainly of PMN, OMZ-72, MON-50, MON-90, and MON-100 antipersonnel mines, and TM-62 antitank mines.[3] At the present time in Chechnya, it is believed that the arsenal may also include PMN-2, POMZ, and KPOM antipersonnel mines. Chechnya has not destroyed any stocks of APMs. Depots and stocks of APMs, like that of other kinds of arms, were moved to secret camps and bases in mountain regions during the war. There are armed groups and private individuals, such as black market merchants, who have stocks of APMs.


Both sides used mines in the Chechen conflict. Russian forces laid mines around their bases and checkpoints. They also mined the cities, including access to city sewers. Chechen forces were reported to have used mines as booby traps in houses and mined corpses of Russian soldiers during the battle for Grozny. [4] Russian officials also admitted that they had mined the main road between Grozny and Nazran, in Ingushetia, in March 1995. A refugee bus traveling on the road struck a mine and ten people were killed and another five wounded.[5]

There have been allegations of new use of landmines since the end of the war. In May 1997, the British demining firm HALO Trust said it had seen new minefields laid by Russian Interior Ministry forces along Chechnya’s borders with Ingushetia and Dagestan since the peace agreement was signed in 1996.[6]

At present antipersonnel mines are used by various armed groups and armed robbers. They are mostly used in attacks against political figures or in attacks designed to destabilize the situation in the republic. The mines have been laid in busy places, frequented by civilians. People who have been targeted in mine attacks include: the President, the Chief mufti, and the Minister of State Shariat Security. All these cases involved mines with electronic remote-control. Various armed groups allegedly have training camps where military skills, including mine use, are taught and practiced.

Chechen officials claim not to use APMs at this time, but haven’t discarded the right to use them in case of aggression.

Landmine Problem

During the fighting (1994-1996), the control of many territories was passed from one side to another several times, and each time the territories were mined again. According to Mr. Arsaliev, there were about 500,000 mines on the territory of Shali tank regiment alone.[7] By some estimates, 80% of Chechnya is affected by landmines and UXOs.[8] However, there are no reliable estimates of the number of mines in Chechnya because no minefield maps have been made available and no comprehensive survey conducted.[9] The most heavily mined areas are on the outskirts of Grozny and in the south, which was a stronghold of Chechen resistance.[10] HALO Trust, a British firm conducting mine clearance operations in Chechnya, estimates that 20,000 hectares of farmland cannot be used because the presence of landmines.[11]

The following data about the mined areas of Chechnya was provided by the Chief of Staff of the Chechen forces:

  • Achkhoy-martan District, mined area: 3229 hectares.
  • Grozny District, mined area: 9022 hectares.
  • Gudermes District, mined area: 439 hectares.
  • Vedeno Region, mined area: 445 hectares.
  • Shatoy District, mined area: 302 hectares.
  • Kurchaloi District, mined area: 1415 hectares.
  • Shaly District, mined area: 925 hectares.
  • Urus-martan District, mined area: 4824 hectares.
  • Stary-urt District, mined area: 39 hectares.
  • Town of Johar, mined area: 150 hectares.

Mine Action Funding

Funding for demining is almost nonexistent. Denmark committed $815,000 for mine clearance in Chechnya and Germany trained two mine action experts in Germany.[12] There are no funds in the Chechen Republic budget for humanitarian demining. According to an agreement between Chechnya and the Russian Federation, financing of those programs was to be carried out by Russia, but because of the financial crisis this program has not yet been implemented.

Mine Clearance

When Russia withdrew from Chechnya in 1996, it cleared one minefield near Shaly, but the rest of the minefields were left uncleared.[13] According to specialists in the engineering services of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Armed Forces of Russia, at least thirty years would be required for mine clearing in Chechnya. Maps of minefields have not been provided by either side. According to the 1996 peace agreement, Russia is supposed to provide minefield maps to the Chechens in order to help with mine clearance, but they have not. The lack of maps was due both to the hasty withdrawal of Russian forces from their bases throughout Chechnya, during which “everything was lost in the hurry,” and to the fact that for many areas Russian forces had no such maps.[14]

There is only one local private firm which does mine clearing. It is headed by former Soviet Army officer Colonel M. Arsaliev, who is now also at the Headquarters of the Chechen Forces. His firm has ten men who have conducted mine clearance for the past two years. Work is carried out using Soviet-made equipment.

HALO Trust conducted a mine assessment mission in January 1997 and proposed a demining project in cooperation with the Chechen army.[15] They proposed to initially train 100 local deminers, and more at a later time.[16] Chechnya has a severe shortage of mine clearance equipment; HALO Trust purchased equipment from Russia and received from the UK Ministry of Defence a donation of ten tractors to be adapted to mine clearance purposes.[17]

Chechen government officials informed a Norwegian People’s Aid fact-finding mission that Russians are training local military forces and are participating in demining, although all mine clearance activity remains under the authority of Chechen officials.[18]

Mine Awareness

There are no training brochures, films or leaflets produced locally. All materials on mine awareness come from abroad. Literature and films are mostly are in English and require translation. ICRC activities in Chechnya have been curtailed since the assassination of six ICRC workers in 1996; nonetheless, it still provides invaluable assistance. Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN - a British NGO) distributed mine awareness posters from 1996 to February 1998 when it withdrew. It also disseminated information about location of mines to HALO Trust.[19]

Landmine Casualties

The failure adequately to mark off mined areas, sloppy demining, and the inherently indiscriminate nature of landmines contributed to as many as 500 civilian mine casualties during the first year of the war, according to international relief organizations.[20] Since the end of the war in 1996, there have been an estimated 600 to 800 landmine casualties in Chechnya, about half of whom are children.[21] Immediately after the war, the number of casualties from mines appeared to increase as people returned to their homes. Laman Az reported that during this time period, there were fifty-seven landmine casualties in the Nozhai-Yurtovsky region, forty-five landmine casualties in the Achoi-Martanovsky region, and thirty landmine casualties in the Urus-Martanovsky region.[22] Information on other regions, especially remote areas, is difficult to come by.

Landmine Survivor Assistance

Chechnya has historically been one of the poorest of the Soviet republics. The health care system was inadequate before the war; currently, it is in a crisis state. Chechen medical facilities are ill-equipped to handle war victims. The main hospital in Grozny was bombed by the Russians in 1996. Although it is still operational, there is a severe shortage of equipment, medicine, and water.[23]

The hospitals have very limited resources. The medical institutions do not keep separate statistics for the victims of APMs. Activity of the orthopedic center is hampered because of the absence of funding, materials and equipment. Carriages, prosthetic appliances, crutches, and special boots are purchased with money supplied by the victims.

Many people have lost limbs and suffered other injuries. At present, there are approximately 3,500 people registered by the Ministry of Public Health in the Chechen Republic as needing artificial limbs. It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many of the above suffered as a result of landmines, but Chechen Health Ministry officials estimate up to 20 percent.[24] The availability of prosthetics in Chechnya is very limited; a few who can afford it travel for costly treatment in Moscow or Azerbaijan. The Deputy Minister of Industry of Chechnya is trying to establish an orthopedic clinic which would provide prosthetics for free to poor victims.[25] The Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development (CPCD) and Handicap International, with the Agency for Rehabilitation and Development, are presently working to re-open the Chechen Orthopaedic and Prosthetics Centre in Grozny, which ceased working in 1995. The Chechen Ministry of Health is assisting in the establishing of this project.

At the Ministry of Public Health there is a department of rehabilitation for those injured during the war, created under the initiative of the Minister of Public Health Services. The department of rehabilitation conducts registration, selection and direction of patients for treatment in other regions, as there are no facilities in Chechnya.

Presently, the only real help to injured people requiring prostheses is rendered by the Republic of Azerbaijan, with which the Chechen Republic Ichkeriya has concluded an agreement for free treatment of citizens injured during the war. In this agreement an item is included about free prostheses for injured people in the prosthetic centers "Akhmedli" and "Darkagul," which are in Baku (Azerbaijan). In this agreement three parties participate:

* Ministry of Social Protection and Ministry of Public Health of the Republic Azerbaijan, ensuring free prostheses in prosthetic centers in Baku (Azerbaijan).

*the humanitarian organization "Help the Injured" from Kuwait (representation in Baku), feeding patients during stay in Baku (Azerbaijan) and transportation after fitting of prostheses to Grozny.

* Ministry of Public Health of the Chechen Republic Ichkeriya, sending monthly by group injured people in quantity of 25-30 persons to Baku (Azerbaijan).

There are serious disadvantages to this method, as travel to Baku is difficult and costly, and repeat visits for re-fitting/repairs are problematic.

The Chechen Orthopaedic and Prosthetics Centre, when functioning, made the following kinds of orthopaedic products: prostheses of lower extremities (different types), prostheses of upper extremities, wheelchairs, crutches, and canes. The Centre is an independent enterprise, working on contract basis with main management of the prosthetic-orthopaedic assistance to the population under the auspices of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection.

The majority of children in Chechnya are suffering material hardship and psychological trauma as a result of the war. CPCD set up the Little Star children's psychological rehabilitation Centre in a former children's sanatorium on the edge of Grozny in May 1997, in the 'Krasnaya Turbina' region. The present premises are leased from the Chechen Ministry of Health. Ten percent of children attending psychological rehabilitation courses at Little Star suffer acute post-traumatic stress disorders as a result of landmine accidents. Seven hundred children with PTSD attend the Little Star Centre every year, having been diagnosed by CPCD psychologists in schools.

In Grozny, two thirds of hospitals and clinics were destroyed in the war. Those that remain run at around 30% of their original capacity. Medical staff have received wages for only three months of the last two years. Hospitals are hopelessly lacking in medicines. A plague of kidnappings of foreign workers and the murder of Red Cross workers in 1996 has meant that the urgently needed help from international organizations has been almost totally absent.


[1] Interview with Akhiad Idigov, Chechen Minister of Foreign Affairs, December 1998.

[2] Interviews with former chief technologist of Electropribor plant Mr. A.Z. Satuev, laboratory assistant at Anisimov plant Mr. T. Larsaev, and former engineer at Krasny Molot plant Mr. T. Akhmetkhanov.

[3] Interview with Mr. M. Arsaliev, chief deminer of the Chechen Republic.

[4] The UK Working Group on Landmines, Landmines in the former Soviet Union, June 1997, p. 8.

[5] United Nations, Country Report: Russian Federation. See http://www.un.org/Depts/Landmine/country/russianf.htm.

[6] Carlotta Gall, “Land Mines, Chechnya’s Hidden Killers,” Moscow Times, 21 May 1997.

[7] Interview with Mr. M. Arsaliev, chief deminer of the Chechen Republic.

[8] Chechen officials to a Norwegian People’s Aid delegation. Cited in NPA, “Fact Finding Mission Report, Chechnya,” 11-19 June 1997, Annex A-24.

[9] NPA, “Fact Finding Mission Report, Chechnya,” p. 4.

[10] Landmines in the former Soviet Union, p. 8.

[11] Carlotta Gall, “Land Mines, Chechnya’s Hidden Killers.”

[12] Mine Action Bilateral Donor Support, database maintained by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

[13] Landmines in the former Soviet Union, p. 10.

[14] Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview with Maj. Gen. Alexander Nikolaevich Shvetsov, co-commander of the Joint Kommandatura, Grozny, October 21, 1996. Regarding maps, Maj. Gen. Shvetsov stated, “I think they do not exist.” Cited in Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, Russia/Chechnya - Report to the 1996 OSCE Review Conference, Vol. 8, No. 16 (D), November 1996, p. 10.

[15] Landmines in the former Soviet Union, p. 10.

[16]NPA, “Fact Finding Mission Report, Chechnya,” Annex A-19.

[17]“UK Donates Mineclearing Vehicles,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, 22 April 1998.

[18] NPA, “Fact Finding Mission Report, Chechnya,” Annex A-23.

[19] NPA, “Fact Finding Mission Report, Chechnya,” Annexes A-3 and A-15.

[20] Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, Russia/Chechnya - Report to the 1996 OSCE Review Conference, p. 10.

[21] Roman Gashaev, Chairman of the “Laman Az,” Voice of the Mountains Public Organization. Presented at New Steps for a Mine-Free Future, Report on the First International Conference on Landmines in Russia and the CIS, IPPNW-ICBL, Moscow, May 27-28, 1998.

[22] Ibid.

[23] NPA, “Fact Finding Mission Report, Chechnya,” Annex A-20.

[24] Landmine Monitor interview.

[25] NPA, “Fact Finding Mission Report, Chechnya,” Annex A-8.