Walking on Fire: Demining in Ukraine


About 30% of Ukraine’s territory (174 000 has been exposed to intense combat operations. This area requires survey and clearance from the vast amounts of explosive ordnance left by the invaders. Ukraine is consequently the largest mined territory in the world surpassing such former frontrunners as Afghanistan and Syria. The area requiring clearance is still very difficult to assess or indeed access as fighting is still ongoing: around 18% of Ukraine’s territory remains under occupation.

To date, the Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts remain the most contaminated regions of all the liberated territories, as Russian forces had been present there for a longer period of time. The nature of the demining challenge is different to the pre-Feb 2022 situation: first, fighting has been heavier and longer in duration; second, a far greater range of explosive ordnance has been deployed, and, finally, the area of potentially contaminated territory is 10 times greater.

Russian troops are infamously creative in leaving mine-traps: they plant victimactivated devices on animals, dead-bodies, as well as double and even triple booby-traps on roads, fields and forests. It has been reported that the Russians have also deliberately targeted farming areas and agricultural land for contamination in order to deny its use for future economic activity in Ukraine. The pace of demining work is very slow. Since February 2015 16 000 in Donetsk and Lugansk regions required clearance, of which 7000 on Ukrainian-controlled territories.

Actual size of territories cleared in 2015-2021 was 414,56 sq km (which is only 5,9% of the potentially contaminated territories in controlled areas and 2,5% of the potentially contaminated territories in both controlled and non-controlled areas). All the operators combined cleared on average 64 sq km per year, with most of the work being done by the special services of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and the Ministry of Interior. International non-governmental operators combined (the HALO Trust, DDG and FSD) had been doing on average 1,89 sq km per year. 

Read more in the report below.

The report has a second edition released in 2024. You can read it here.

* Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or EACEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.



Media mentions

  • "Report warns of growing share of contaminated Ukrainian land", POLITICO Brussels Playbook
  • "Danger UXB: demining experts in Ukraine operate in the most mined place on earth", Euronews
  • "Ukraine is the largest mined area in the world. The risk of being blown up by a mine is higher with the onset of spring", BBC Russian Service
  • "Ukraine has become the most mined country in the world. Explosives can be on up to a third of the territory", iROZHLAS
  • "Ukraine most mined country in the world: 30% dangerous territory",
  • Completely demining Ukraine may take up to 750 years", Hungary Post English
  • "Danger UXB: demining experts in Ukraine operate in the most mined place on earth", Yahoo News
  • "При нынешних темпах разминирование Украины займет 757 лет", DW & LRT
  • "Ukraine warns grain import bans play into Russia’s war propaganda", EURACTIV