By Rostyslav Averchuk
Kharkiv, Ukraine, Oct 17 (EFE).- A group of Kharkiv engineers have designed “spider” anti-mine boots in response to the rising number of amputations Ukrainian soldiers are suffering on the front line.
Russia has turned Ukraine into one of the most mined countries in the world and, as a result, thousands of Ukrainians have lost a foot or sustained other serious injuries when stepping on so-called “butterfly” mines or other anti-personnel land mines.
The head of the Ukrainian Shock Absorber Center Igor Yefimenko leads a team of engineers that has developed these special “spider” boots that can help lower the number of amputations among soldiers and sappers.
“The Russians have used missiles to scatter hundreds of them in one go, both on the battlefield and in our city”, Igor Yefimenko, head of Ukrainian Springs Centre, tells EFE.
Yefimenko’s company used to provide auto repair services in Kharkiv but switched to manufacturing these special anti-mine boots following the Russian invasion of the city last year.
He began researching how to protect himself from mines after a family member lost a leg when he stepped on a mine left by Russian soldiers while helping to evacuate a damaged ambulance.
Yefimenko’s team studied the models previously manufactured by foreign companies and ended up designing their own boots, commonly known as “spider” due to their appearance.
The boots are made from plastic and composite materials and look like a raised platform on four outward-facing legs.
If a soldier steps on a mine wearing the “spider” boots, direct contact with the foot is avoided and the effect of the blast wave is reduced.
Yefimenko explains that the boots cannot protect against all damage, with the blast wave still able to break a leg and fragments capable of penetrating the body.
What it does with certainty, however, is to prevent the leg from being amputated, he says as he demonstrates the boots that he used for testing.
The main goal is to “assist in humanitarian demining,” says Yefimenko while adding they currently make “a dozen a day and have orders for another 300.”
The response so far “has been good”, he says.
“Our boots are used by members of assault units, artillerists, drone operators. They often go to unknown locations, where they have to move quickly, and boots help avoid losses,” Yefimenko explains.
Yefimenko’s team expects a sharp increase in production now that the “spider” boots have been certified by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
For them, the greatest reward is knowing that the company’s product is effective.
“I received a picture showing a sapper getting ready for a mission on the next day, wearing our boots. A day passed and they wrote: ‘The guy stepped on a mine, he is in hospital. His leg is broken but is not amputated. Thank you for the boots’. We started crying,” Yefimenko says.