Izyum is a horrifying reminder of the human cost of the war in Ukraine. Six months after liberation, residents say they continue to pay the price.
Large red signs warning of “mines” rest against a tree between a church and the city’s main hospital, which is still functioning despite heavy Russian bombing.
In Izyum everyone has a mining story. They stepped on it and lost a limb or knew someone who did. The mines are discovered daily, hidden along riverbanks, on roads, in fields, on roofs and in trees.
Of particular interest are anti-infantry high explosive mines known as petal mines. They are small and inconspicuously scattered throughout the city. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented that Russia has used at least eight types of anti-personnel mines banned by the Geneva Conventions throughout eastern Ukraine.
The scale of destruction in Izyum, with a pre-war population of 50,000, is breathtaking.
Ukrainian officials estimate that 70 to 80 percent of residential buildings were destroyed. Many have black scorch marks, leaking roofs and boarded up windows.
In a January report, HRW also called on Kyiv to investigate the apparent use by the Ukrainian military of thousands of banned petal mines in Izyum.
“No one can now say what percentage of the territory in Kharkiv is being mined,” said Oleksandr Filchakov, the region’s chief prosecutor. “We find them everywhere.”