Ukrainian mine clearer is back at work after having his leg blown off

A Ukrainian police sapper is back sweeping for landmines with a prosthetic limb – after losing part of his leg when one exploded that he was trying to defuse.

Andrii Ilkiv had an amputation below the knee following the blast in September last year and by May he had his new leg fitted and was able to work again. The 37-year-old father of four is one of 14 sappers who returned to their demining jobs in a national police unit of around 100 despite being wounded in blasts while clearing mines during Russia's full-scale 'special military operation.'

He said: "Of course, obviously there's fear when you return, when you stand next to a minefield there's fear, but on the other hand you know that with the help of a metal detector, a sapper spade and special equipment you can move and conduct demining work."

Ukraine, locked in a conflict with Russia that has raged for 20 months, estimates that 174,000 square kilometers of its territory – about a third of the country – is strewn with mines or potentially dangerous war detritus.

Andrii Ilkiv lost part of his leg when a mine exploded. /Reuters
Andrii Ilkiv lost part of his leg when a mine exploded. /Reuters

Andrii Ilkiv lost part of his leg when a mine exploded. /Reuters

Ilkiv's unit was created during the war and is focused on humanitarian mine clearance away from the fighting. They are now operating in the regions of Kherson and Kharkiv, chunks of which were recaptured from Russia last year. Four of their sappers have been killed in blasts so far and 16 wounded.

Ilkiv, who was hit by an anti-personnel mine in the village of Dementiivka in Kharkiv region last year, said he decided to return because of the large volume of mine-clearance work still to be done and that his wife accepted this.

"She was a bit surprised, shocked. But she has accepted it," he said in Kharkiv region where he was working this week.

The area they were clearing when the mine exploded was particularly tricky, he said. "The mines were buried beneath the ground, impossible to uncover with visual cues."


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Valeri Onul, 51, was another sapper who returned to work in the unit despite losing a leg in a blast in November last year.

"I lifted myself up, looked down, one of my legs was gone... they started pulling me out, I tried to help with my good leg, moved bit by bit and managed to get myself out without triggering two mines that were there."

Even in the immediate aftermath of the blast, he said he was sure he would return to mine-clearance work when he had made a recovery.

"Many thoughts crowded my mind, I do not know how many per second but there was one crazy wish, after I was brought to hospital and I regained my senses already then I wanted to get back to work," he added.

Ukrainian mine clearer is back at work after having his leg blown off

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Source(s): Reuters

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