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Russian engineers ready to help

By 2Lt Alexis Clement
First published in
SFOR Informer #90, June 21, 2000

Srednja Trnova - In its ranks, the Russian Battle group counts a majority of paratroopers, but also a separate engineers company. Their missions are varied and they are in charge of the training of the local demining teams, of the construction and maintenance of SFOR buildings as well as assisting in repairing some local houses, and the destruction of unexploded ordnance when the local population requests it. Last June 14, the company was in Sredna Trnova, about ten kilometres form Ugljevik, to destroy a hand grenade discovered in a garden a few meters from a house.

Two weeks before, a family of refugees having decided to come back in their village had seen the suspected object. They warned the local police who informed SFOR. By order of the Russian Battle group Commander, Capt. Pavlukov and his company went on the site in order to estimate if the grenade could be transported or if they had to destroy it there. Considering the state of the device they could not move it. Indeed, the pin of the grenade was off and it had been launched several years before.

The proximity of the dwelling complicated the task. So in beginning of the afternoon on June 14, the area around the house was emptied and sappers placed an exploding device against the UXO and covered everything with sandbags in order to not to damage the house. The operation lasted just a few minutes.

The Russian sappers are accustomed to this kind of operations. They possess a big advantage on a lot of SFOR units, they can understand and can be understood by the local inhabitants because their languages are close. Contacts with authorities and the local populations are made easy. The chief of the civil defence organisation was on the destruction site and greatly appreciated the Russian engineers work. The Russian Battle Group does patrols every day in its area of responsibility. They meet inhabitants and can talk about their problems of this kind. During the last six months, they have destroyed 74 anti-personnel mines, and 41 different types of ammunition for a total of 6,000 pieces.

It is a very delicate work that has cost the Russians some casualties in the past, despite the expertise of the sappers and their long experience.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Russia
Engineers: Mines and De-mining