Putin’s troops have been accused of a number of war crimes during the illegal invasion of Ukraine, including targeting civilian buildings, the use of cluster bombs and the indiscriminate placement of landmines. Among these horrific acts is the booby-trapping of their dead comrades, which recent reports suggest the invaders are continuing to do as Ukrainian soldiers fight to reclaim their land.
32-year-old private Ivan told the Wall Street Journal about his unit’s success in seizing a village from the Russians. He said their orders were to “go in, f*** them up, retake what’s ours”.
He added that as the Russians flee, they are leaving behind a trail of booby-trapped dead comrades and hauls of equipment. It is not the first time Russian soldiers have been accused of using such tactics.
In April, the bodies of at least thirteen dead civilians were found along a road out of Kyiv after Putin’s men retreated from the area. Olena Halushka, a member of the anti-corruption group in Ukraine, said some bodies were mined by Russian forces before they retreated.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said officials had uncovered booby traps in Kyiv and Mariupol. Further reports later emerged of toys and washing machines being booby-trapped so that Ukrainians would be killed upon returning home.
Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State, told the Congress on Wednesday that there are “very credible reports” that Russians have been “booby trapping things like peoples’ washing machines and toys so that when people are able to return home and go about their lives, they’re killed or injured as a result of these booby traps.”
The New York Times reported that a driver named Oleg Naumenko opened the boot of an abandoned car and it exploded, killing him instantly. The car had been booby-trapped – and such traps are a violation of the law of war.
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Mr Naumenko’s wife said she “died with him” at that moment. There have even been reports of unexploded devices hidden under hospital stretchers and corpses.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed the country is now “one of the most contaminated by mines in the world.” He said that authorities were working to clear as many as possible and condemned the tactic as a war crime.
Ukraine’s southern operational command on Thursday claimed its forces had killed 201 Russian soldiers and destroyed 12 T-72 tanks, 18 armoured vehicles and six ammunition depots over the past 24 hours of fighting. A pro-Russian source claimed the invasion force was now under attack by fresh Ukrainian forces, equipped with Nato weapons.
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The source compared these to the “tattered formations”, made up of “poorly trained reservists” they had faced before. US intelligence states Russia is facing “severe manpower shortages”, with wounded soldiers being brought back to the frontlines to plug gaps in defences.
Ukraine’s current strategy revolves around focusing its attacks on isolating what is left of Russian forces in the south, destroying bridges crucial to resupplying troops.
Independent military analysts Rochan Consulting said: “We still maintain that Ukrainian activity in this direction is fulfilling tactical goals of improving Ukrainian positions rather than operational objectives of pushing Russians over the Dnipro River. However, the situation is fluid. If the Russian defence crumbles, then tactical successes can translate into an operational victory.”