Ukraine will need at least 10 years to demine its territory, official says

FILE PHOTO: Military sappers inspect an area for mines and non-exploded shells left after Russia's invasion in Kyiv Region, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Mykola Tymchenko/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine will need at least a decade to clear all the mines and explosives from its land and territorial waters once its war with Russia is over, an emergency services official said on Friday.

Ukraine has managed to clear 620 square kilometres of land that were littered with thousands of explosive devices, including 2,000 bombs dropped from the air, but nearly 300,000 square kilometres are still seen as "contaminated", the official said.

That is an area roughly half the size of Ukraine's territory, and about as large as Italy.

"Up to 10 years, that's the optimistic figure. Because we don't know what's happening on the territories where active combat is ongoing right now," Oleksandr Khorunzhiy, spokesperson for Ukraine's State Emergency Service, said.

"Just imagine the number of bombs that have been dropped on us by the enemy," the official told a news conference.

The first priority is to demine infrastructure, residential areas and roads, but it will take longer to clear woods, rivers and the coastline, he said.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what Moscow calls a "special military operation" to demilitarise Ukraine and rid it of dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and its allies dismiss this as a baseless pretext to launch an unprovoked war of aggression.

(Reporting by Max Hunder, Writing by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Alison Williams)

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