By Mark Hiznay, Senior Arms Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence posted a photo essay showing its troops training with mines near Zhytomyr, in the northwest of the country on March 13, 2015. The training was commanded by Colonel General Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of General Staff, according to the story.
The Ministry of Defence should clarify immediately if the mines being used in its training are “live” mines or inert models that are free from explosives. To use Soviet-era military terminology, are the mines used in this training “combat” or “exercise” mines?
One of the photos of the training shows a group of soldiers examining several antipersonnel mines and an antivehicle mine. The mine types are identified in the following annotated photo:
Of primary concern is the presence of the PFM-type and PMN-2 antipersonnel mines in the foreground, which are classic pressure-activated antipersonnel mines banned by the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The OZM-72 and MON-type mines are multipurpose mines that can be configured to be victim-activated (antipersonnel) or command-detonated depending on the fuze type used, but no fuzes are visible. The TM-62M antivehicle mine appears to have an MVCh-62 pressure fuze in-place, which also gives it the capacity to be activated by a person.
Ukraine signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively prohibits antipersonnel mines, on February 24, 1999 and became a State Party on June 1, 2006. The retention of “live” mines for the purpose of training or demining research is permitted by the treaty but regulated by a strict transparency regime that requires regular declarations on the intended purposes and actual uses of retained mines. The use of inert models, so-called “exercise mines” incapable of functioning as an antipersonnel mine, is encouraged by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
Ukraine has declared various numbers of antipersonnel mines retained for training since 2007 in annual transparency reports submitted to the UN Secretary General, namely PMN, PMN-2, and recently OZM-4 mines.
Ukraine reported the destruction of all its retained mines in a June 2011 statement to a Mine Ban Treaty meeting in Geneva, but subsequently listed 605 OZM-4 mines retained in its transparency report covering calendar year 2012. It’s most recent report, submitted on April 1, 2014, leaves the entry for quantity of mines retained blank, and states “НЕ ПЕРЕДАВАЛИСЬ” or “None”, for the other information elements of the section.