As if Ukrainians don’t have enough things to worry about, a new and potentially fatal phenomenon has emerged in the Kharkiv Region – crows carrying landmines.
A number of recent incidents have seen people injured by the explosive devices in populated places not known to have been mined during the conflict and areas previously cleared by ordnance disposal workers.
On April 14, according to the Main Directorate of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region, a woman recently stepped on a mine in the market in Izyum, severely injuring her leg.
Employees of the Kharkivoblenergo electrical company were checking power lines in Stepne village, Kharkiv region, when a 46-year-old man stepped on a mine. The explosion blew off his foot.
On April 18, it happened near the center of the city Balaklea, Kharkiv region, a stone’s throw from a supermarket. A woman stepped on a PFM-1 anti-personnel mine almost in the city’s center. Diagnosed with a left foot laceration, she was hospitalized in a local medical center.
The incidents have led experts at the local Kharkiv Zoo to speculate that the mines have been moved by crows.
“The situation is completely unexpected. Of course, I’d like to have specifically confirmed observations and evidence. However, it’s quite plausible!” said Dmitry Strelkov, deputy head of the cultural and educational department of the Kharkiv Zoo.
“Crow-type birds, especially ravens and grey crows, are very intelligent and can be curious about unusual-looking, unfamiliar objects,” he said. “Usually, these birds are wary of human-made items, but nowadays, some are so used to living around people that they can take such things quite easily."
The PFM-1 is an anti-personnel landmine (commonly called a “petal” because it resembles a tree leaf). It detonates when a person steps on the mine. The explosion produces virtually no blast fragments, so people often don’t die but suffer severe leg injuries, with high likelihood of amputation. An international convention – the Ottawa Treaty - prohibits the use of such mines.
Petal mines can appear where they didn’t seem to be before, not only because of birds. According to the State Emergency Service, during mine dispersal by aircraft or other methods, such munitions can get stuck in tree branches, remain on the roofs of houses, etc.
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