Landmines continue to be a less-recognized yet extremely lethal element of the Russia-Ukraine war, and a number of such devices can be traced as far back as Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine.
Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have used at least 13 types of anti-vehicle mines, and Russian forces are known to have used at least 13 types of antipersonnel mines since the invasion began, according to a June 2023 land-mine report published by Human Rights Watch.
Mining the Battlefield and Beyond
Multiple mainstream media reports say mines in Ukraine left by Russian forces have impacted farmers and killed large numbers of civilians as well.
The Human Rights Watch report says landmines have been documented in 11 of Ukraine’s 27 regions, as they can be used to deny access to invading forces, slow down advances, or simply attack enemy formations. Anti-personnel landmines continue to be used to stop advancing infantry and prevent invading forces from establishing a foothold or “presence” in an area. In addition to antipersonnel mines, there have also been a large number of hand-emplaced TM62 series anti-vehicle mines which are also deployed, the report says.
“Russian forces also emplaced numerous victim-activated booby-traps as they retreated from positions they had taken, occupied, or fortified during the 2022 invasion. Booby-traps can function as antipersonnel mines when a person unintentionally activates the fuze and detonates the device,” the Human Rights Watch report specifies.
A key tactical implication associated with mines can simply be understood in terms of time. Landmines can certainly cause casualties and inflict massive amounts of damage and destruction, yet they can also simply cause massive delays for any advancing force. Detection devices, forward spotting and reconnaissance teams, and other kinds of mine-clearing efforts are needed to clear areas to ensure advancing forces can continue along a certain path.
The risk of mines also creates a need for mine-clearing missions along certain highly traveled routes wherein heavily armored vehicles or other sweeping and reconnaissance technologies can seek to locate, detonate, remove, or simply avoid any possible landmines.
The weapons can prove extremely effective in terms of slowing down attacking forces as they might need to sweep and clear areas of mines before being able to reclaim areas previously occupied by Russia.
Mines can also have a devastating psychological effect in terms of having the ability to simply frighten, intimidate, or impair advancing mechanized forces to reclaim and hold territory. Areas can be swept for mines or cleared of mines to a degree, or routes without mines can be identified, yet they can really slow down attacking forces. This gives any defensive formation more time with which to conduct reconnaissance and identify the approaching force. An advancing force that is slowed down can much more easily be tracked and seen by drones, satellites, and other surveillance technologies. This of course makes them much more vulnerable to attack.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.