In fields strewn with bombs, Ukrainian farmers risk a deadly harvest
The region is one of Ukraine’s agricultural breadbaskets, famous before the war for its watermelons and tomatoes and as a major producer of grain and sunflower oil. Before the Russian invasion, Kherson produced more vegetables by volume than any other Ukrainian region, according to government statistics.
A sea corridor, brokered by the United Nations last year to allow already-harvested Ukrainian grain to bypass a Russian blockade and be shipped abroad, has partly alleviated the global food crisis triggered by the war. The deal is due to expire on March 18, but even if extended, Ukrainian farmers must be able to sow and harvest grain again for shipments to continue.
Experts say it is too early to make estimates on how long it would take to clear all the mines from the Kherson region. Vast portions of the liberated territory remain within range of Russian guns and are bombarded daily, including with cluster munitions, which can spread unexploded bombs over a wide area. A cluster munition attack can hit an area of 20 hectares, Dvoretskyi said.
“I can’t guarantee that if today I clear a field, tomorrow the orcs won’t cover it with cluster bombs,” he said, insulting the Russian troops.
In the meantime, farmers like Mr. Hordienko have, very carefully, begun to survey their own land. Using a hand-held metal detector as well as a larger device attached to a tractor, he has so far found 1,500 mines, although he thinks there could be hundreds more. ‘others.
War didn’t seem far off on a recent tour of his fields, outside Beryslav, some 40 miles upriver from the city of Kherson along the Dnipro. Though faint, the rumble of artillery was audible in the distance, and the tails of rockets poked here and there across the fields. A Russian tank, scorched a rusty orange, sat in a grove of short trees, a small hole in its hull where an armour-piercing shell had hit it.
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