Switzerland offers additional CHF100 Mn for mine clearing in Ukraine

In an important decision that underlines its commitment to humanitarian causes, Switzerland has allocated a budget of 100 million francs to mine clearance efforts in Ukraine. The Federal Council announced the funding on September 29, 2023, with the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS) and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) sharing financial responsibility equally. The initiative aims to address the urgent need for mine clearance in Ukraine, a country that has become one of the most mined regions in the world since the start of the war 18 months ago.
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In an important decision that underlines its commitment to humanitarian causes, Switzerland has allocated a budget of 100 million francs to mine clearance efforts in Ukraine which includes the Digger-250 illustrated here above (Picture source: Digger)

Eighteen months after the start of the conflict, Ukraine has become one of the most mined countries in the world. An estimated third of its territory, covering an area larger than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland combined, is contaminated by mines and other explosive ordnance. This situation has seriously hampered agricultural production in Ukraine, long known as the “breadbasket of Europe”. Tragic accidents involving farmers and civilians, including children, are on the rise, making mine clearance a matter of utmost urgency.

Switzerland has already allocated 15.2 million francs for 2022 and 2023 to the fight against mines in Ukraine. This includes FDFA support for GICHD and FSD operations as well as a donation of mine clearance machines from the Digger Foundation, an organization based in Jura, by the DDPS.

On August 29, 2023, the DDPS announced that it would provide the National Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU) with a remote-controlled demining machine developed by the Swiss Digger Foundation. The Digger D-250 is the fourth generation of remote-controlled humanitarian demining machines and draws on more than two decades of experience in 16 countries and four continents. It can be used at ranges up to 500 meters and has been successfully tested against anti-tank mines containing up to 8 kg of TNT equivalent. The machine is equipped with a unique oscillating track system that ensures better weight distribution, improving its off-road capabilities.

The additional 100 million Swiss francs will allow Switzerland to step up its demining work, provide equipment and training to Ukrainian deminers, and support the government's coordination efforts.

The demand for such advanced demining technology is undeniable, as Ukraine currently relies on a limited fleet of 20 demining machines, of which only three are deployed in the Kharkiv region. Additionally, the country is grappling with a shortage of around 3,000 qualified demining specialists, highlighting the urgent need for innovative solutions.

The urgency of mine clearance operations in Ukraine comes against the backdrop of the Russian invasion which began in February 2022. A Globesec report from April 26, 2023, revealed that almost 30% of Ukrainian territory, or approximately 174,000 kilometers squares, is affected by mine clearance. landmines and unexploded ordnance. Mine clearance efforts are complex and resource-intensive, with tactics employed by Russian forces further complicating the process. As of June 2023, these efforts have resulted in the disposal of approximately 540,000 unexploded objects. The World Bank estimates that the total cost of keeping Ukraine safe from these risks is a staggering $37 billion.