A Ukrainian Border Guards serviceman deployed in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas war zone was reported to have sustained a severe eye injury in what Ukrainian commanders said was another use of prohibited blinding laser weapons by Russian-backed forces in warfare.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of Oct. 1 at an observation point close to the front line near the city of Maryinka, a Ukrainian-controlled settlement next to the Kremlin-occupied part of Donetsk Oblast, some 570 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian State Border Service.

“At approximately at 5 p.m., (the affected Ukrainian border guard) saw a bright flash of yellow light from the direction of an enemy entrenchment as he was observing it through binoculars, and felt the sharp pain in his eyes,” the agency’s press service said on Oct. 2.


Immediately after that, the serviceman was taken to a hospital in the city of Pokrovsk, at which ophthalmologists conducted a examination of the injured eye, and diagnosed a laser-induced injury to the eye’s retina.

The border guard has been taken to a major military medical center in the city of Dnipro for further treatment.

“Currently, the military servicemen is known to have had the functionality of his right eye reduced by 80 percent,” the agency said, adding that the Oct. 2 incident was the fifth case of Russian-led forces using blinding lasers against Ukrainian troops.

Earlier, in late May, the Kyiv Post reported that at least six Ukrainian servicemen deployed to the war zone in the Donbas had been known to have sustained serious eye retina burns between 2016 and 2018.

Two of the previously known incidents of blinding laser engagement also took place at the front line near Maryinka. Three border guards sustained eye burns while surveying enemy territory through an optical device in July 2016, and another one was injured in March 2018.

After treatment, all of the affected troops have had their eyesight almost fully restored, Border Service Lieutenant General Oleh Blyashenko told the Kyiv Post.


In a later response to a request by the Kyiv Post, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry also said that two Ukrainian soldiers had sustained “ophthalmic irradiation injuries” since 2014. The total number of Ukrainian servicemen attacked by such weapons in the Donbas could thus now be seven.

The details in the reports of the incidents leave no doubt that Russian-led forces are using blinding laser devices provided by Russia, the military believe.

International law bans the use of blinding laser weapons with powers of over 2.5 milliwatts per square centimeter. Such weapons are considered to be capable of inflicting severe eye injuries or even permanent blindness, and are banned under the 1995 United Nations Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons.

In December 2017, the International Court of Justice ruled the use of such lasers a war crime.

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