Banned anti-personnel mines: ‘Fact of life for citizens of eastern Ukraine’
Anti-personnel mines are banned by an international treaty, of which Ukraine is a signatory. Yet one former high-ranking Ukrainian military officer says he was relieved of his duties for questioning the use of these devices.
Vadim Yatsulyak, ex-Ukrainian officer fled the country after mine-use allegations, saying he was given “inhumane commands” to plant anti-personnel mines in eastern Ukraine. Today, he says civilians are dying from the mines planted by the Ukrainian Army, adding that authorities in Kiev “showed no interest in investigating the case.”
RT:There are fairly serious allegations that are being made here. Do you think these claims sound credible?
Roger Annis: I do, indeed. We’ve been dealing with these mines – people have been injured, children have been injured. This is a fact of life for the people of eastern Ukraine, so it won’t be news for them. But it is very welcome that this news is coming into the public domain and perhaps this can force international investigators, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to take this seriously and investigate further. I doubt that the officials of the OSCE or the governments that are supporting the government in Kiev are unaware of this. This is not news for people who are following events in eastern Ukraine, but it will be news for the casual observer who’s been told by international media that this is some kind of a virtuous war going on in eastern Ukraine.
RT:The officer involved says that he did raise objections to his superiors about the use of these weapons. The Ukrainian authorities are signatories to legislation banning these weapons, so why would they ignore his appeal?
RA: They are also signatories against the use of cluster weapons, but last October the New York Times, and Human Rights Watch confirmed the use of cluster weapons by the Ukrainian armed forces in eastern Ukraine. And the OSCE itself, on February 3 of this year, issued a report confirming that, in its words, ‘unfortunately, despite the reports of October, Ukraine continues to use the weapons.’ So we have a very bad precedent here already, which I think shows the lengths to which Western governments are prepared to go to support this war in eastern Ukraine, and I hope this report is going to open the floodgates of investigation by Western media, who should have journalists in eastern Ukraine looking at this story, and then the appropriate human rights and international organizations that are supposed to oversee the implementation of treaties countries sign.
RT:Surely Ukraine’s Western allies would have to take a stand on this, if it turns out that these mines were planted. What kind of reaction would you anticipate at this stage?
RA: I think they have to be pressured to do so. We’ve had a year and a half of war in eastern Ukraine, in which we’ve seen civilians routinely shelled, mortared and attacked. We’ve seen an armed intervention by Ukrainian armed forces within their own country, which is not something governments are supposed to do and still be accepted from members of the international community…. We’ve had extensive human rights reports, including ones that are published in Russia, which are completely ignored by Western media and tend to be much more detailed reports. We’ve got a bad record here and I think this latest report has got to add more momentum to international media as well as human rights organizations to put the appropriate pressure on authorities in the West to curb the use of illegal weapons by the Ukrainian government. We have a framework through the Minsk 2 ceasefire agreement to try and resolve this war and achieve a peace that could be lasting….
RT:And if these claims turn out to be true and these mines have been planted, what would it actually mean for the situation in Ukraine. Do you think the Kiev authorities are – as one guest suggested – giving up on this territory and making sure that nobody takes it? How would you interpret the situation?
RA: This is certainly what is discussed in the Kiev government and its discussed in Ukrainian media…We’ve seen increased pressure on the Kiev government that’s forcing it to at least rhetorically pretend that it’s concerned about the state of affairs in the East of the country, so I hope the sane elements in the Ukraine government will prevail.
Note:The Ukrainian National Guard Press Office told RT in a statement: “As of yet we can neither confirm, nor deny this information [provided by Vadim Yatsulyak]. We need to check the documents issued at that time.”
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.