Izyum is a gruesome reminder of the human cost of the war in Ukraine. Six months after it was liberated, 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 bombardment.
In Izyum, everyone has a mine story. They either stepped on one and lost a limb or know someone who did. The mines are discovered daily, concealed along riverbanks, on roads, in fields, on the tops of roofs and in trees.
Of particular concern are anti-infantry high-explosive mines, known as petal mines. Small and inconspicuous, they are spread across the city. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented that Russia has used at least eight types of antipersonnel 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 70 to 80 percent of residential buildings were destroyed. Many bear black scorch marks, punctured roofs and have boarded-up windows.
In a January report, HRW also called on Kyiv to investigate the Ukrainian military’s apparent use of thousands of banned petal mines in Izyum.
“No one can say now the total percentage of territory in Kharkiv that is mined,” said Oleksandr Filchakov, the region’s chief prosecutor. “We are finding them everywhere.”