Weapons cutting in Albania.
Over a span of three years, Albania’s landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination increased due to internal and external strife. In 1997 the central regions of Albania were emplaced with mines, ERW, and abandoned ordnance, and military depots were looted during a period of civil disorder. Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) were also emplaced by Yugoslavia in the northeast during a conflict with neighboring Kosovo between 1998 and 1999.
In FY 2008 the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State provided $2,021,775 to fund continued clearance work by DanChurchAid. During these clearance and survey operations, one anti-tank mine and 264 anti-personnel mines were destroyed while 812,771 square meters of land were released for use. Similarly, $529,000 was provided to the national nongovernmental organization Victims of Mines and Weapons Association–Kukes for mine risk education and victim-assistance projects in the northeast districts bordering Kosovo.
In addition to its humanitarian mine-action activities, PM/WRA also responded quickly to the explosion that occurred in the ammunition facility in Gërdec village in March 2008. This catastrophic event destroyed over 400 homes, killed 26 people, wounded another 300, and simultaneously littered a large area of the surrounding countryside with dangerous munitions. In response to a request from the government of Albania, PM/WRA , acting through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance, provided an additional $2 million for the Gërdec munitions clean-up, and another $137,800 for Gërdec-related ERW risk-education and victim assistance.
In spite of the extremely disruptive nature of the Gërdec explosion, the leadership of the Albania Mine Action Executive was able to keep the 2009–10 mine-action plan on track while at the same time providing valuable assistance to the Albanian Ministry of Defense. They also supported international explosive-ordnance disposal teams conducting the Gërdec clean-up operations, which continue to be funded by PM/WRA. It is expected that Albania will achieve mine impact-free status during the 2009 or early 2010 demining season.Armenia
The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia (1988–94) created the landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) problem in the country. A Landmine Impact Survey in 2005 identified 60 communities affected by a total of 102 suspected hazardous areas in five regions, all bordering Azerbaijan. It was estimated that 322 square kilometers were contaminated by mines and ERW.
In FY 2008 the United States Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Training Center deployed one instructor, a value of $6,893, in direct support of the United States European Command Humanitarian Mine Action train-the-trainer program; 35 Armenian deminers were trained.Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan’s landmine problem is largely a result of the conflict with Armenia between 1988 and 1994, but abandoned Soviet-era munitions dumps and unexploded ordnance (UXO) also pose a significant threat. A Landmine Impact Survey (LIS) completed in 2003 by the Survey Action Center and International Eurasia Press Fund indicated that landmines and UXO contaminated 18 of 65 districts in Azerbaijan. More than half of the affected communities were in the Fizuli region, located in the western part of Azerbaijan near Nagorno-Karabakh, and in the region of Agstafa, in the northwest, where a Soviet Army base was located. The LIS did not cover Nagorno-Karabakh, the Nakhchivan region, or small locations to which access was denied by the military. The Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) reports that 2,338 landmine and UXO casualties occurred between 1991 and 2008.
In FY 2008, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State issued $1,279,587 to Azerbaijan in support of mine action and victim assistance. A grant for $848,000 enabled ANAMA to replace aging vehicles and field equipment, and assist with monthly costs of on-going clearance activities. An additional $382,000 was provided to expand the ANA MA explosive-ordnance disposal (EOD) capacity. The 20 additional EOD operators were trained, equipped, and deployed to clear surface and subsurface contamination resulting from the explosion of the former Soviet ammunition warehouse located in Saloglu village. Also in 2008, PM/WRA provided the Marshall Legacy Institute with $49,587 in matching funds to integrate landmine survivors into society by providing them with vocational training and employment opportunities through the Ganja City Regional Resource Centre.Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), primarily stemming from the 1992–95 conflict related to the break-up of Yugoslavia. A 2002–03 Landmine Impact Survey recorded that minefields and ERW affected 1,366 of 2,935 municipalities to some degree.
In FY 2008 the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State continued its strong support of the Bosnian humanitarian mine-action program by designating $4,650,000 of its matching funds contributions to the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance for Bosnian mine action.
Over the last two years PM/WRA increased its emphasis on funding competitive tenders for Community Integrated Mine Action Plans and other large scale contracts for clearance and technical survey. This was done in order to achieve economies of scale by “batching” numbers of small- to medium-sized projects located in close proximity to each other into larger projects for competitive bidding by demining NGOs and commercial organizations. As a result, explosive threats were eliminated in dozens of small, isolated rural communities that had been struggling for years to exist on reduced access to farmlands and pastures, thereby improving the agricultural productivity and quality of life of the local farmers as well as enhancing opportunities for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
The results on the ground were impressive. A combined total of nearly 120 Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center technical survey and clearance projects were executed, resulting in the return to safe use of nearly 2.7 million square meters of land and the marking of over 320,000 square meters of untreated threat areas.
The mine-victim assistance (MVA) and mine-risk education (MRE) programs were equally strong. MVA activities were oriented toward improving the quality of health care available to victims from both the governmental and private health care systems.
Survivor Corps provided financial support to approximately 100 survivors to help them launch new businesses or careers; Hope ’87 established Pain Management Therapy Departments at four major Clinical Centers; and the Center for International Rehabilitation provided distance learning training for prosthetic technicians. Two Bosnian NGOs, Fantomi and ECO Sport, provided significant recreational and reintegration opportunities for victims through sports competitions, as well as publicly highlighting their potential and capabilities. MRE activities were centered on a program established by the NGO Positive Play. This program was targeted at youth athletic clubs with a potential outreach of over 20,000 people in 65 municipalities.Bulgaria
In FY 2008, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State provided $300,000 for the destruction of excess small arms/light weapons, aged conventional ordnance, and operational support after the July ammunition depot explosion at Chelopechene near Sofia. In November, shortly after PM/WRA awarded a contract to DynCorp International for the formation of a humanitarian Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to respond globally to urgent and emergent humanitarian operations that require the removal or mitigation of explosive hazards to protect civilian populations, the first QRF Assessment Team deployed to Bulgaria. The QRF responded to the Bulgarian government’s request for technical assistance with the clearance and disposal of unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the Chelopechene blast site. Between December and March of 2009, under adverse weather conditions, the QRF team safely cleared 38,539 square meters and recovered 110,416 pieces of UXO without accident or injury.
UXO and debris field at the Chelopechene blast site in Bulgaria.
Removing UXO and debris from a crater at the blast site.
QRF team members prepare UXO for demolition.
A mine warning sign is posted along a local road in Bastica, Croatia.
Due to the war over the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, landmines and explosive remnants of war remain in Croatia. In FY2008, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State contributed $2 million through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance for humanitarian mine action. Thirteen demining projects were funded at a total cost of $1.57 million, resulting in the return of almost 727,000 square meters of land to safe usage. Another $48,100 was expended on providing recreational rehabilitation for 40 victims of mines and other explosive remnants of war in collaboration with Bembo, a national nongovernmental organization.Estonia
Stockpiled ordnance in Estonia.
Estonia has undergone a longstanding battle against explosive remnants of war (ERW) stemming from World War II, including a 100-kg aviation bomb that was unearthed in the capital of Tallinn in October 2007. In response, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense have provided various forms of ERW and landmine-clearance assistance.
The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State provided the Estonian Rescue Board (ERB) with new explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) equipment worth $157,000 to assist in clearing underwater ERW in FY 2007. The Estonian EO D/demining specialists received three heavy bomb-disposal suits, diving equipment, a motor boat, and remote-detonation devices.
In FY 2008, PM/WRA provided the ER B with replacement EOD equipment worth $250,000, which allowed for continued clearance of underwater ERW and surface and subsurface ordnance.
Georgia is affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) as a result of inter-ethnic and intranational conflicts in the separatist regions of South Ossetia (1988–92) and Abkhazia (1992–93). The vast majority of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the civil conflicts are in Abkhazia. Substantial minefields also exist in the Pankisi and Kodori Gorges, as well as around former Soviet military installations.
Months of Russian provocations beginning in spring 2008, followed by intense artillery barrages in and around South Ossetia at the beginning of August, led to a Georgian decision to launch an attack on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on August 7. Russia invaded Georgia from several directions and quickly overwhelmed the Georgian military. A ceasefire was signed on August 12. The brief nature of this conflict has confined the majority of new ERW contamination to a 20 km-by-20 km high-intensity conflict zone between the cities of Gori in Georgia and Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. As of October 31, 2008, there are a total of 16 villages contaminated with cluster munitions and nine villages with a UXO problem in this area. Similar to other former Soviet states, Georgia possesses a large stockpile of aging and obsolete weapons and munitions. Conventional munitions destruction both bilaterally and through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began in 2008 and is scheduled to continue through 2012.
In early FY 2008, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State provided $700,000 to The HALO Trust (HALO) to continue clearance in Abkhazia. After hostilities ended in August 2008, PM/WRA provided HALO with an Emergency Survey and Response Capacity grant worth an estimated $3.7 million. PM/WRA also granted the nongovernmental organization Information Management and Mine Action Programs $1.5 million to establish a conventional weapons destruction coordination capacity in Georgia. Finally, PM/WRA granted $500,000 to the Georgian organization Delta to destroy excess and obsolete weapons and ammunition, as well as $250,000 to the NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund, led by the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), to destroy excess conventional missiles.
An ammunition store exploded in the Upper Kodori, Georgia, and spread unexploded ordnance across the grounds of the local school.
Kosovo was a province of Serbia before declaring independence on February 17, 2008. The region had been significantly affected in the 1990s by explosive remnants of war (ERW), including unexploded cluster bomblets from NATO air strikes, and by landmines, booby traps, and ERW from the conflict between Kosovo Liberation Army Forces and the former Yugoslavia. After federal forces withdrew from Kosovo, generous donor nations and groups, including the United States and the United Nations, contributed humanitarian mine-action assistance to Kosovo, and it was effectively rendered free from the humanitarian impact of mines and ERW (“impact free”) in 2001. Thanks in part to the United States, Kosovo developed the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), which has been able to deal with the few mines and ERW that remain mostly in remote locations. In January 2009, the responsibility for training and recruiting was transferred from the KPC to the Kosovo Security Force (KSF). The KSF is a multi-ethnic institution focusing on civil-military affairs missions, including demining.
In FY 2008 the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State granted $150,000 for mine-detection dog team support for demining and battle-area clearance work by the KPC’s mine-action teams. An additional $111,524 was contributed for risk education for over 8,000 primary school children in 20 schools within the four most mine- and ERW-affected districts of the country. This was a combined effort between QPEA and Future, Kosovar Albanian and Serb NGOs respectively, with all major ethnic groups represented on the teaching staffs as well as the student bodies and communities served by the program.
An old orthodox church stands next to Ohrid lake, the site of a 2008 survey for underwater explosive threats.
Mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) mainly affect the northwest and southern regions of Macedonia. The border with Greece in the south, spanning from Gevgelija to Ohrid, is scattered with ERW left from World Wars I and II. Conflict between government forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in 2001 led to mine and ERW contamination at the northwestern borders with Kosovo and Albania in the regions of Tetovo, Kumanovo, and Skopje.
Although Macedonia is for all intents and purposes mine-impact free, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State provided $50,000 in FY 2008 for use in conducting a survey for underwater explosive threats in Lake Ohrid, and providing additional training and equipment for Macedonia’s Explosive Ordnance Demolition teams responsible for the removal and destruction of residual explosives threats on Macedonian territory.Montenegro
Yugoslav-made SA-7b man-portable air-defense systems, which were destroyed by Sterling International & EOD Solutions under a PM/WRA-funded stockpile-reduction contract in Montenegro.
Montenegro, which became independent in June 2006, suffered from considerable landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination due to periods of conflict throughout the 1990s. In addition to underwater mines along the Albanian land and maritime border dating from Yugoslav times, mines were planted in Kotor Bay and in the border areas with Croatia and Bosnia in 1991, as well as in Plav municipality (between Bogicevic and Lipovica mountains) and along the Kosovo border in 1998–99. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrikes in 1999 also left unexploded cluster bomblets in several areas. Thanks in part to assistance from the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State, over the past several years Montenegro has cleared almost all known mines from Montenegrin territory (Montenegrin authorities believe that mines and unexploded ordnance remain in two limited areas; there are also occasional findings of unexploded ordnance from WWII in the Podgorica area).
In FY2008, PM/WRA contributed $20,000 through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance to replace worn out diving and other underwater demining-related equipment for Montenegro’s Regional Center for Underwater Demining. This center, located in Bijela, Montenegro, was established in 2002 with funding assistance provided by PM/WRA. It is the only non-military center in the world specializing in the humanitarian clearance of underwater explosive hazards.
Events during the 1990s are the main cause of the presence of persistent landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Serbia. Conflict during the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s led to some of the contamination. Additionally, air strikes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Air Forces during the campaign to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo caused contamination. Parts of Serbia are also affected by mines and ERW remaining from previous wars.
In FY2008, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State provided $800,000 through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF) to continue funding demining and battle area clearance (BAC) projects in Serbia. Most of these projects concentrated on clearance along Serbia’s border with Croatia.
During FY2008, over $1.2 million was also provided through PM/WRA’s contributions to the ITF to fund additional BAC projects in Samaila and Blata townships and mine clearance in Neprecava, and to provide 44 Serbian deminers with humanitarian demining refresher training through a course sponsored by the ITF.
The United States is the lead nation for Phase 1 of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace Trust Fund project, with goals of helping Ukraine destroy its small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), and stockpiles of excess munitions. Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the European Union are other donors supporting the project.
This is one of the largest weapons and munitions destruction projects in history, and represents the largest Partnership Trust Fund project undertaken by NATO. The project is in response to Ukraine’s request for help in eliminating 133,000 tons of munitions and 1.5 million SA/LW. Mainly dating from the Soviet era, these stockpiles are a threat to public safety and the environment, and pose a potential proliferation risk. The proposed four-phase project will last a projected 12 years and will cost approximately $27 million in donor contributions, with Ukraine providing most of the operational and in-kind demilitarization costs. Phase 1 will cost donors $8.5 million, and includes plans for the destruction of 15,000 tons of munitions, 400,000 SA/LW, and 1,000 MANPADS.
In FY 2008 the United States contributed $1 million, and has contributed $6,442,000 to date from the SA/LW destruction fund managed by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State.
In FY2008, SA/LW destruction slowed to a stop with only 23,993 weapons destroyed, compared to 108,000 destroyed in 2007, for a total of 131,993. As of late 2008, planning continued for munitions destruction, which is scheduled to begin when a new explosive waste incinerator is installed. The originally envisioned three-year first phase is being extended to address the outstanding targets.
Decanting of melted SA/LW into a mold to form an ingot, which can be sold as non-weapons scrap, by employees of Ukroboronleasing at the SA/LW demilitarization facility in Kamyanets-Podilskyy, Ukraine.
Using a barcode scanner, an employee of Ukroboronleasing at the SA/LW demilitarization facility in Kamyanets-Podilskyy, Ukraine, records the disassembly of AK 47s in a database.