Europe, covering approximately 10.2 million square kilometers (3.94 million square miles), is home to about 11 percent of the world’s population. Many countries in Europe are littered with anti-personnel landmines, as areas such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Georgia have all been involved in recent conflict following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Poorly stored munitions in Southeastern Europe also present a serious threat to civilian safety and security because the weapons become unstable over time and the expansion of urban areas means homes are built dangerously close to the storage depots.
The primary sources of landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination in Albania stem from the nearly 50-year dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, who built massive stockpiles of Soviet- and Chinese-made munitions. Social anarchy from 1997–99 led to widespread looting of military depots, which caused mines, ERW, and abandoned ordnance to be littered in the central regions of Albania. Yugoslavia’s conflict with Kosovo from 1998–99 resulted in a lasting legacy of landmine, ER W, and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination along the country’s northeastern borders.
The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has been the major contributor to humanitarian mine-action efforts in Albania since 2001. The U.S. program of demining assistance to Albania ended at the conclusion of the 2009 demining season, which coincided with Albania’s announcement at the Cartegena (Colombia) Summit on a Mine Free World that it had achieved mine-free status. The combined results of this nearly decade-long effort saw the return to safe use of over 16 million square meters of land and the destruction of over 12,500 mines and nearly 5,000 items of unexploded ordnance. An indigenous demining force was developed to deal with residual explosive threats under the direction of the Albania Mine Action Executive.
An MDDC team working in ALBANIA. [DanChurchAid]
• Nearly $1 million through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance
• More than $550,000 to Handicap International and ALB-AID, an Albanian nongovernmental organization, for risk education and victim-assistance efforts.
The 2008 explosion of a military ammunition storage facility in the village of Gërdec had a tragic humanitarian impact, killing 26 and injuring hundreds, as well as destroying homes and scattering dangerous munitions throughout the surrounding countryside. Responding immediately to the disaster, PM/WRA provided more than $1.3 million for remediation activities in the village of Gërdec, clearing terrain and removing 37,000 unexploded projectiles as of February 2010. PM/WRA continues to support this technical and very dangerous work, providing funds through a grant to the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance. PM/WRA works closely with Albanian Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials to reduce the enormous stockpile of excess, unstable, and otherwise at-risk munitions and weapons that pose an ongoing threat to the people and security of Albania. Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts funded by PM/WRA destroyed over 24,000 mortars in 2009 as part of this ongoing demilitarization project. In an effort to ensure Albania’s Armed Forces retain the ability to address such challenges, this multiyear project includes infrastructure upgrades to Albanian facilities that will support future demilitarization operations. Going forward, PM/WRA expects to support related demilitarization activities that will be managed through grants to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Maintenance and Supply Agency, which plans to establish a multi-year partnership with the Albanian MoD in 2010.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has also been an important partner in Albania, building the capacity of the Albanian Armed Forces to deal with the threat of dangerous munitions stockpiles. The DOD provided a U.S. Army EOD officer to assist the Albanian government with its national ammunition demilitarization plan. The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) five ammunition assessment missions to Albania bear witness to the challenges the government of Albania will continue to face. Through coordination with NATO’s Headquarters in Tirana, DTR A conducted an executive level Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) seminar there in October 2008. This seminar provided munitions storage safety and security best practices and procedures to 20 officers from the Albanian MoD. Along with an expert from the Swiss Verification Agency, the DTR A team successfully engaged the Albanian participants and made additional strides toward improving PSSM procedures in Albania. In addition, the U.S. European Command Humanitarian Mine Action Program sent a U.S. Navy EOD Mobile Training Team to train 27 members of the Albanian Armed Forces in UXO and abandoned EOD procedures and emergency medical response training for ordnance disposal operations.
Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) clearance of unexploded ordnance at a former military site in Gudzek, AZERBAIJAN. [Katherine Baker/PM/WRA]
In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) issued nearly $2.2 million in grants to support mine-action and victim-assistance activities in Azerbaijan. These activities include the following:
• ANAMA received a $579,907 grant to support clearance activities in Gudzek.
• An additional $471,872 was provided to ANAMA’s Humanitarian Demining Emergency Response Team. This 16-person team provides a quick response to urgent requests from mine- and UXO-affected communities.
• ANAMA received another contribution of $86,580 to help provide specialized treatment to 140 mine/UXO survivors.
• The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) received an $880,000 grant to continue support of clearance of the contamination resulting from the explosion of the former Soviet ammunition warehouse located in Saloglu village. This will permit NAMSA, in conjunction with ANAMA, to complete planned clearance operations.
• IEPF was awarded $179,825 for survivors’ assistance in Azerbaijan to establish a vocational training center for mine survivors and clearance retirees in the Terter region of Azerbaijan.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense’s United States European Command provided over $330,000 in support to ANAMA including:
• State-of-the-art media equipment and training materials for mine-risk education of both schoolchildren and adults
• Computer equipment to run the latest version of the United Nation’s Information Management System for Mine Action
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Fifteen years after the end of its last conflict, BOSNIA and HERZEGOVINA’S capital, Sarajevo, continues to be affected by explosive remnants of war. [© BigStockPhoto.com/Orhan Cam]
During FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) continued its strong support of Bosnian humanitarian mine-action operations. PM/WRA provided over $4.4 million to fund a combination of 44 clearance and 84 Technical Survey projects through the International Trust Fund For Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF), returning over two million square meters of land to safe use (313,485 square meters cleared and 1,938,467 square meters released through Technical Survey). Infrastructure rehabilitation accomplished by these operations included the removal of explosive threats from two power lines, three industrial zones and sections of five roads in rural areas affected by explosive threats. These operations were conducted in 34 of the 106 municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, directly benefitting approximately 7,700 inhabitants out of the combined population of nearly 700,000. A total of 276 mines and 94 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) were destroyed in the process. Five local commercial demining companies (Detektor, UXB Balkans, N&N IVSA, Amphibia, and Tehnoelektro) and six local demining nongovernmental organizations (CIDC, STOP Mines, Pro Vita, BH Demining, Demira, and UEM) conducted these operations under ITF contracts.
PM/WRA also provided nearly $32,000 to support mine-risk education (MRE) and another $549,000 for victim-assistance efforts. One MRE project was conducted during 2009 by Positive Play, a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), which provided services to a total of 1,527 schoolchildren in eight towns and villages in high-risk areas.
A combination of five local and international organizations (Eco Sport Group, Miracles, OKI Fantomi, Landmine Survivors Network BiH, and the Institute for Rehabilitation of the Republic of Slovenia [IRRS]) provided medical and other rehabilitative services for mine/UXO survivors and their families. A total of 15 victims received medical treatment: 12 by the NGO Miracles at its facility in Mostar and three by the IRRS in Slovenia. Additionally, various types of psychosocial, rehabilitative and recreational services were provided by these five organizations to 263 victims/family members during the course of the year.
Bulgaria was affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO) following the 2008 explosion of a government ammunition depot at Chelopechene, near Sofia. This led to the UXO contamination of surrounding areas and has posed an ongoing humanitarian threat to civilian populations.
In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided approximately $698,000 for the destruction of excess small arms/light weapons and aged conventional ordnance associated with the Chelopechene ammunition depot explosion. The PM/WRA Quick Reaction Force (QRF), created in 2008, was sent on its first deployment to Bulgaria in response to the Chelopechene blast, where the QRF provided technical assistance for UXO clearance and disposal. Between December 2008 and March 2009, clearance operations conducted by the government of Bulgaria, and supported by the QRF, led to the clearance of 38,539 square meters and the recovery of 110,416 pieces of UXO without accident or injury.
|DTRA’s Bill Johnson confers with the Croatian Chief M3 and the Croatian Senior Technical Advisor regarding ammunition safety and testing in CROATIA. February 2009. [MAJ Greg Phillips, U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency]|
In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) contributed $3.36 million through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF) to fund humanitarian mine-action and battle area clearance activities in Croatia. These included contracts for 18 clearance and seven Technical Survey projects supporting agriculture and resettlement of lands cleared of mines.
As a result of these demining operations, 1,300,674 square meters of land was cleared of explosive threats and another 713,869 square meters was released for use through Technical Survey, directly benefitting some 450 people in 15 different municipalities where the operations took place. In all, a total of 124 anti-personnel mines and 329 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) were located and destroyed.
Dave Diaz (left) and MAJ Sulev Suvari (right) lead a brainstorming session on ways to promote regional cooperation on stockpile reduction at the first workshop on Regional Approaches to Stockpile Reduction in Southeast Europe held in CROATIA in May 2009. [Laurie Freeman/PM/WRA]
PM/WRA also provided nearly $100,000 for a mine-risk education project through the ITF. This project, conducted by the Center for Neohumanistic Studies, involved the printing and distribution of 15,300 copies of a storybook for schoolchildren in 12 towns and villages instructing them how to live safely in highrisk explosive-threat areas.
With support from PM/WRA, Croatia destroyed 929 man-portable airdefense systems, modernizing its defense infrastructure while taking an important step to reduce the risk of regional proliferation. In recognition of the advancements made by Croatia to reduce these and other stockpiles, Zagreb was chosen as the host city for the May 2009 workshop that launched the Regional Approach to Stockpile Reduction (RASR) initiative. The RASR effort will develop a dialogue among senior general staff and Ministry of Defense officials from the region so they can periodically share information, advice, and lessons learned, as well as coordinate efforts when and where appropriate.
Estonia’s remnants of war (ERW) problems date to World War II. In 2007, three 100- kg aviation bombs were unearthed from construction sites in the capital of Tallinn. Since then, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense have provided various forms of ERW and landmine-clearance assistance.
In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $675,000 to purchase seven explosive ordnance disposal robots, and improvised explosive device and unexploded ordnance (UXO)-related training and destruction equipment.
As of early December 2009, the Estonian Rescue Board’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Center had responded to 1,414 calls and cleared and destroyed over 3,670 pieces of UXO. Daily utilization of EOD equipment has tripled since early 2008. This overall increase in utilization has necessitated above-average field repairs and frequent equipment exchanges between bomb groups.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s United States European Command provided more than $150,000 in support to advance Estonia’s mine-risk education program by procuring state-of-the-art media equipment and training materials for the mine-risk education of both children and adults.
This MRE poster was used in GEORGIA following the August 2008 conflict which left a large area of ground littered with unexploded ordnance. It reads: “Dangerous! Dont touch! It kills!!!” [The HALO Trust]
The brief nature of the 2008 conflict confined the majority of new ERW contamination to a 20-square-kilometer high-intensity conflict zone between the cities of Gori in undisputed Georgia and Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. In 2008, a total of 16 villages were contaminated with cluster munitions and nine villages had a UXO problem in the Shida Kartli region. The United States and other donors supported the efforts of The HALO Trust (HALO), a nongovernmental organization, to clear this contamination. U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Bass participated in a ceremony on December 10, 2009, with Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Nodar Kharshiladze, Shida Kartli Governor Lado Vardzelashvili, and HALO, which marked the completion of ERW clearance in the Mghvrekisi village, Gori district, and throughout much of Shida Kartli. This did not include South Ossetia, which was inaccessible. Through the clearance effort, 8,407 acres of land were returned to productive use.
Similar to elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, 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 FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) contributed $4.762 million to the following programs in Georgia:
• HALO: $3,046,785 grant to complete work in Shida Kartli and to continue clearance in Abkhazia
• NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency: $500,000 to support an Estonian-led NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund to train and equip the Georgian military to undertake ERW clearance
• Norwegian People’s Aid: $168,362 to survey Poti harbor for ERW contamination
• State Military Scientific-Technical Center DELTA (National Georgian entity): $1,158,381 to assist with the destruction of Georgia’s excess and aging conventional munitions, including the destruction of more than 1,600 tons of various munitions
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. In the 1990s, while still part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), hostilities between FRY security forces, the Kosovo Liberation Army, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) airstrikes led to the significant presence of landmines, booby traps, unexploded cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Kosovo. As a result of international assistance efforts, to which the U.S. was a major contributor, in 2001 the United Nations declared that Kosovo was free from the humanitarian impact of mines. However, not all the ERW were removed, and with considerable U.S. support, an indigenous demining force was created within the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) to further reduce the remaining residual explosive threat to the civilian population. In January 2009, the responsibility for demining operations passed to the Kosovo Security Force, which will commence full-scale demining operations in 2010 after completion of an extensive basic and refresher training program.
The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has continued to support clearance operations in Kosovo through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF). In 2009 PM/WRA provided $150,000 to fund six mine-detection dog teams from the Mine Detection Dog Center for South East Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina to support clearance operations conducted by Mines Advisory Trust, a demining nongovernmental organization (NGO) operating under the direction of the Kosovo Mine Action Coordination Center. As a result of these efforts, 71,590 square meters of forest land were restored to safe use in the vicinity of the towns of Gjakove/Djakovica and Decan/Decani, with three anti-personnel mines and 21 UXO destroyed.
PM/WRA also provided more than $111,000 to fund a mine-risk education (MRE) project conducted jointly by two local organizations: the Center for Promotion of Education (QPEA, a Kosovo Albanian NGO) and Future (a Kosovo Serb NGO). During this multi-ethnic project, 120 teachers from 29 schools were trained in MRE subjects and techniques by the end of 2009. These teachers, in turn, will become “MRE force multipliers” to hundreds of students in the schools they serve, and to the larger segments of the Kosovo population (such as parents, other family members, and friends) associated with the schoolchildren.
Macedonia is affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) mainly in the northwest and southern regions of the country. ERW remnants from World War I and II span the Macedonian border with Greece. Mine and ERW contamination in the northwest along Macedonia’s borders with Kosovo and Albania remain from clashes between government security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in 2001.
Although Macedonia, for all intents and purposes, has reached mine-impact free status, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided funding in FY2008 for use in conducting a survey of 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.
In FY2009, the culmination of planning, capacity building, and $200,000 in assistance provided by PM/WRA resulted in the clearance of more than 700 pieces of abandoned ordnance.
As a result of periods of conflict dating back to World War I, Montenegro has suffered from persistent landmine and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination. Underwater mines were placed on Montenegro’s maritime borders during WW II; retreating armies jettisoned large quantities of artillery shells and other types of explosive munitions in inland waterways and bays during both WW I and WW II; and during the hostilities of the 1990s, landmines were planted along the border with Kosovo while North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrikes in 1999 contaminated several areas with aerial bombs and cluster munitions.
In 2002, the Regional Center for Underwater Demining (RC UD) was established at Bijela, Montenegro, with the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) providing funding through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF). The RCUD is the only non-military center in the world specializing in clearance to humanitarian standards, and it also serves as the de facto mine-action coordination authority for landmine and other ER W land-based clearance operations.
In FY2009, PM/WRA continued its longstanding support to both land and water clearance operations in Montenegro by providing $20,000 to purchase five complete sets of diving equipment for the RUD to further its national and regional underwater training and clearance operations.
Additional PM/WRA funding through the ITF has supported the reduction of excess and outdated munitions held by the Montenegrin Armed Forces, which contributes to the modernization of the Armed Forces, decreases management costs for munitions stockpiles, and reduces the likelihood of accidental explosions that could threaten the civilian population.
In recognition of the advancements made by Montenegro to reduce these and other stockpiles, Budva was chosen to host the second workshop of the Regional Approach to Stockpile Reduction initiative in November 2009. This effort is developing a dialogue among senior general staff and Ministry of Defense officials from the region so they can periodically share information, advice, and lessons learned, as well as coordinate efforts when and where appropriate.
While some land- and water-based explosive contamination remains, Montenegro is largely free of mines and unexploded ordnance. The country is entering the sustainment stage of collaborative efforts for mine- and other ERW-clearance operations and munitions demilitarization.
Serbia’s persistent landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination began during the dissolving of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. North Atlantic Treaty Organization air strikes during the campaign to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo caused further contamination. Landmines and ER W from previous eras of conflict continue to affect communities throughout Serbia as well.
In FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided nearly $6.7 million to fund six mine/unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance projects, a survey and land release project, and to support the demilitarization and destruction of munitions and improvements to the physical security and stockpile management of Serbian facilities. These funds were channeled through the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance in close coordination with the Serbia Mine Action Center in Belgrade. These operations were completed by a combination of local, regional, and international demining organizations: Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) performed the survey and land release work while the clearance projects were completed by PMC Engineering, a Serbian company (two projects); Enigma, a Croatian company (one project); and UXB Balkans, a Bosnian company (three projects).
As a result of the clearance operations, all of which were conducted in Sid municipality, 1,162,848 square meters of land were returned to safe use, directly benefitting the 3,900 inhabitants of the villages of Morovic and Jamena where the operations took place. The explosive threats destroyed during the course of these operations totaled 129 Europe pieces of UXO, 27 anti-tank mines, and 35 anti-personnel mines. Serbia also destroyed over 3,700 man-portable air-defense systems (SA-7) systems.
Although initially tasked with surveying 10 square kilometers, NPA actually completed the survey of over 20 square kilometers (20,356,049 square meters) during 2009. As a result, it is estimated that over 6.6 square kilometers will be released for use as containing no explosive threats. Of the remaining 13.7 square kilometers identified as risk areas, it is estimated that 12 square kilometers will be targeted for further survey and land release processing during 2010.
Ukraine is working to destroy excess stockpiles of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), and munitions under a U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace (PfP) project. Seventeen donor countries (in addition to the United States) and the European Union made financial contributions to the project. They are: Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
This is one of the largest weapons and munitions destruction projects in history, and represents the largest PfP 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. The stockpiles, mainly dating from the Soviet era, pose a potential proliferation risk and are a threat to public safety and the environment. 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 inkind demilitarization costs. Phase 1 will cost donors $8.5 million, of which the United States contributed $6.442 million, and includes plans for the destruction of 15,000 tons of munitions, 400,000 SA/LW, and 1,000 MANPADS.
Ammunition destruction began in late 2009 with just under 4,500 tons destroyed before the end of the year. SA/LW destruction restarted in December 2009 with 10,400 weapons destroyed before January 2010. A total of 142,393 weapons have been destroyed and the project will continue into 2010.