Bucha, Ukraine, Apr 14 (EFE).- Mine experts have been inspecting houses in Bucha, one of Ukraine’s worst-hit cities during the Russian invasion, to detect and destroy the thousands of explosives left behind by enemy troops before their withdrawal from the devastated city.
At just 23 years old, Norislav is head of one of the five mine specialist squads operating in Bucha, where Russian troops allegedly committed the largest massacres against the civilian population, which resulted in more than 400 deaths.
Although there is no official data on the number of mines that have already been eliminated, Norislav’s team detects and destroys around 600 every day, the young mine specialist from Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, tells Efe.
Some 30,000 of Bucha’s 35,000 inhabitants fled before Russian troops entered the city and destroyed everything.
Residents said the soldiers raped and killed civilians in cold blood, destroyed water, gas and electricity systems and looted as much property as they could, leaving hundreds of mines behind.
Norislav’s team has to check dozens of apartments and houses every day to ensure they are safe before their owners return home.
“Access to the city is restricted, only residents can enter, but we have to check their homes first,” he tells Efe.
Vladyslav, 57, waits for the anti-mine squad to finish checking his sister’s house, which was occupied by Russian soldiers for nearly a month. He fears explosives were left inside.
“They haven’t found anything,” he says, with relief, after the squad finishes combing the area.
His sister and her daughter, who is in a wheelchair, only managed to flee on the fifth day.
They are now in France, but Vladyslav says they will return to the city once the war is over.
“We are going to rebuild the house. We have to put in new doors and windows, but my sister wants to come back,” he says.
Dima, a goldsmith, had just finished renovating his new workshop the day before Bucha was occupied. There is nothing left of it now, not even the exterior wall.
He has called in the anti-mine team because he found a message in Russian in front of the premises that read “do not go up to the eighth floor”.
During the inspection of the floor, the anti-mine unit finds some twenty unexploded anti-tank projectiles, which will be collected with special equipment and destroyed somewhere safe, away from civilians.
“It is very difficult to demine the entire city and its surroundings. An example of this is that mines from the First and Second World Wars are still being found,” Dmytro Hapchenko, head of Infrastructure for the Bucha City Council, tells Efe.
According to officials, 90% of the city’s water, gas and electricity networks, have already been demined.
“The goal is to destroy all the visible mines first, but it is almost impossible to do it 100%. It could take years to find those that are better hidden,” he says. EFE