bomb disposal | 

Irish volunteer puts his life on the line to help clear-up Ukraine battlefields

“There's a lot of stuff laying around the place from minefields, grenades, RPGs.”

Ukrainian servicemen fire by MSLR towards Russian positions during fighting at the frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)© AP

February 24, 2023, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has become a grinding war of attrition that has killed thousands of people and displaced millions, ravaged cities and destroyed vital infrastructure across the country. Graphic shows timeline of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and key numbers.© The credit “GRAPHIC NEWS” mu

TheCargo 200 team on the ground in Ukraine

A YEAR since Russia ramped up its invasion of Ukraine into a full-scale war, vast swathes of the country have been left strewn with deadly weapons. It is where the Russians have booby-trapped bodies and used terrifying seismic mines designed to detect human footsteps and then launch a decapitating explosive charge. This is where Irish volunteer Jonathan Baynard has chosen to step into, helping to bring bodies back from the battlefield or ‘Cargo 200’ as it is called there.

TheCargo 200 team on the ground in Ukraine

A YEAR since Russia ramped up its invasion of Ukraine into a full-scale war, vast swathes of the country have been left strewn with deadly weapons. It is where the Russians have booby-trapped bodies and used terrifying seismic mines designed to detect human footsteps and then launch a decapitating explosive charge. This is where Irish volunteer Jonathan Baynard has chosen to step into, helping to bring bodies back from the battlefield or ‘Cargo 200’ as it is called there.

A YEAR since Russia ramped up its invasion of Ukraine into a full-scale war, vast swathes of the country have been left strewn with deadly weapons. It is where the Russians have booby-trapped bodies and used terrifying seismic mines designed to detect human footsteps and then launch a decapitating explosive charge. This is where Irish volunteer Jonathan Baynard has chosen to step into, helping to bring bodies back from the battlefield or ‘Cargo 200’ as it is called there.

A YEAR since Russia ramped up its invasion of Ukraine into a full-scale war, vast swathes of the country have been left strewn with deadly weapons. It is where the Russians have booby-trapped bodies and used terrifying seismic mines designed to detect human footsteps and then launch a decapitating explosive charge. This is where Irish volunteer Jonathan Baynard has chosen to step into, helping to bring bodies back from the battlefield or ‘Cargo 200’ as it is called there.

A YEAR since Russia ramped up its invasion of Ukraine into a full-scale war, vast swathes of the country have been left strewn with deadly weapons. It is where the Russians have booby-trapped bodies and used terrifying seismic mines designed to detect human footsteps and then launch a decapitating explosive charge. This is where Irish volunteer Jonathan Baynard has chosen to step into, helping to bring bodies back from the battlefield or ‘Cargo 200’ as it is called there.

A YEAR since Russia ramped up its invasion of Ukraine into a full-scale war, vast swathes of the country have been left strewn with deadly weapons. It is where the Russians have booby-trapped bodies and used terrifying seismic mines designed to detect human footsteps and then launch a decapitating explosive charge. This is where Irish volunteer Jonathan Baynard has chosen to step into, helping to bring bodies back from the battlefield or ‘Cargo 200’ as it is called there.

Eamon DillonSunday World

A YEAR since Russia ramped up its invasion of Ukraine into a full-scale war, vast swathes of the country have been left strewn with deadly weapons.

It is where the Russians have booby-trapped bodies and used terrifying seismic mines designed to detect human footsteps and then launch a decapitating explosive charge.

This is where Irish volunteer Jonathan Baynard has chosen to step into, helping to bring bodies back from the battlefield or ‘Cargo 200’ as it is called there.

The Omagh man is a bomb disposal expert, who worked with Legenda an NGO based in Latvia that specialised in finding missing soldiers from World One and Two battlefield sites

Last May Baynard went to Ukraine where he helped in the clean-up in areas such as Bucha and Hostomel which saw intense fighting in the early days of the war.

Now he’s training police and Cargo 200 teams on how deal with mines, bombs and unexploded shells when they go in after battles to recover the dead.

Wide areas of Ukraine are now no-go zones for civilians even for those who know where loved ones lay dead, they have to rely on the Cargo 200 volunteers.

“There's a lot of stuff laying around the place from minefields, grenades, RPGs. Of course, loaded weapons are a big danger too because the Cargo 200 teams are not military.”

TheCargo 200 team on the ground in Ukraine

“They need to be briefed on what is dangerous.”

“The risk to every one of these Cargo 200 guys is the fact that the Russians are prolific booby trappers - they'll booby trap stuff including bodies so it's about really techniques in order how to deal with that.”

“What lot of people don't really understand is there's Ukrainian families here right now and they know where their loved ones are but those areas are off limits because they're just too dangerous.”

“So you know it's about completing that circle really giving them closure.”

He admits one of the things that has shocked him is the use of the ‘Medallion’ mines which explode if someone approaches it.

“It can distinguish between animals and humans and when it's detected humans getting close within its perimeter, it jumps up out of a canister and explodes.”

“They're sending 360 degrees shrapnel around everywhere - of course, your chances of surviving something like that are pretty slim.”

So far they’ve trained 650 people to take on the dangerous task of de-mining.

According to the UN, one year of war leads to 10 years of demining and reports say that 30 per cent of Ukraine is now contaminated with mines.

Baynard makes the point that excavation of military sites from World Wars One and Two littered with munitions is still going on today.

The weapons still cause death and injuries

“I can imagine that right now Ukraine is not only one of the most mined areas, it's also the most highly contaminated areas and we need all the specialists we can find right now.”

The UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported that in the first 12 days of February this year five civilians have been killed and 17 wounded by mines and unexploded munitions.

The use of mines has added to the problem of people been forced to leave their homes or not being able to return to them.

Having arrived in May, giving up his job and using his own savings so far Baynard plans to see it through to the end of the way, even though a Russian shell came close to killing him last August.

That day a shell landed close to his jeep as his team evacuated civilians from close to the frontline

“I want to stay here right until the end until the victory, because I do believe good will overcome evil and that's the way I see it right now.”

TheCargo 200 team on the ground in Ukraine

Part of his motivation had been the way the Russian authorities used the work of Legenda in recovering bodies of Red Army soldiers for propaganda purposes.

“To have that history weaponized in order to motivate soldiers to fight here against the Ukrainians in the logic that the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine is needed, that is for me a hijacking of history.”

“We spent close to €50,000 out here and just to keep operations going forward and training, but it's all on a shoestring.”

“I quit a comfortable job. I came out here in May and I've been living off my savings and that doesn't last forever.”

Even away from the frontlines in Kyiv there are daily reminders that Ukraine is country at war.

“You still have times where there's no electric, although back in November and December it was much more grim here.”

"Luckily I was able to dive out to Europe towards the end of the year in order to get supplies including generators and stuff like.”

“I guess for the majority of us here there's periods of darkness inside and outside and of course then you hear the air defense.”

Just last week he remembers waking up as the apartment shook from a detonation not far away as air defence missiles were sent into the air - “there's an air war going on and it's right above us.”

To support Legenda’s work go to: www.legenda-archaeology.com


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