Human rights organization accuses Ukraine of using butterfly mines

Human Rights Watch accused Ukraine of planting anti-infantry butterfly mines to prevent Russian forces from advancing, injuring nearly 50 civilians.

“Ukrainian forces appear to have laid a lot of mines” around the northeastern city of Izyum, weapons expert Steve Goose of the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), said today. The type of mine used is the PFM anti-infantry mine, also known as the butterfly mine, which is fired by rockets.

After launching a military operation in Ukraine in February 2022, Russian forces took control of Izyum in April. Ukraine launched a counterattack in September and recaptured the city.

HRW says its field researchers have seen evidence of rocket launchers being used along with traces of mines at Izyum. They have also spoken to witnesses who have seen landmines, know someone who has been injured or been warned about the weapon.

“Medical workers say they have treated nearly 50 civilians, including at least five children, who appear to have been injured by PFM,” according to HRW. “About half of all cases involve amputation of the foot or lower leg, common sites of injury caused by PFM.”

A PFM-1 mine in a deployed state.  Photo: Interfax Ukraine.

A PFM-1 mine in a deployed state. Photo: Interfax Ukraine.

Ukraine is one of the parties to the 1997 Convention for the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines and by 2020 Kiev has destroyed most of its mines from the Soviet era. Meanwhile, some countries such as the US, Russia, and China are not parties to this convention. In 2021, Ukraine reported to the United Nations that it had more than 3.3 million PFM in its rocket systems that had not been destroyed.

HRW said it sent the collected evidence to Ukrainian authorities in November. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Oleksandr Polishchuk responded but did not directly address the allegations.

“Ukraine is a trusted member of the international community and is fully committed to its international obligations regarding the use of mines. This includes not using anti-infantry mines in war,” Polishchuk said. according to HRW.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has not yet commented on the information from HRW. The agency has stressed that Kiev complies with its obligations under the treaty and does not comment on the weapons used “until the conflict with Russia ends and Ukraine restores its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Location of the city of Izyum, Ukraine.  Graphics: BBC.

Location of the city of Izyum, Ukraine. Graphics: BBC.

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