Zelensky says swathe of Ukraine contaminated with mines

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called for long-term help in clearing his war-ravaged nation of mines and other unexploded ordnance, which he said now cover an area roughly the size of Cambodia.

In a video address to New Zealand’s parliament, Zelensky described Russia’s nearly year-old invasion as an “ecocide” that would have lasting impact and implored Wellington and others to step up aid.

“As of now, 174,000 square kilometres (67,000 square miles) of Ukrainian territory are contaminated with mines and unexploded ordnance,” Zelensky told lawmakers.

Also read | Russia says Ukraine must accept ‘reality’ for there to be peace. Then, explains

That is an area roughly the size of Cambodia, Syria or Uruguay.

Zelensky urged New Zealand — whose military has extensive experience in mine clearing — to help lead the clean-up effort.

“There is no real peace for any child who can die from a hidden Russian antipersonnel mine,” he said.

He added that both the Black Sea and the neighbouring Sea of Azov were also littered with mines “and have lost hundreds of thousands of living creatures, those who died as the result of the hostilities”.

The Ukrainian leader has addressed dozens of foreign parliaments over the past 10 months, seeking to sustain and strengthen a global coalition in support of Ukraine’s defence efforts.

New Zealand has so far supplied Kyiv with modest amounts of equipment and military training but has sent more than 100 personnel to Europe to give the Armed Forces of Ukraine advice on soldiering.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated New Zealand would be willing to help with the cleanup effort and in rebuilding the country.

“I want to acknowledge your further calls for support, especially around the long-term impacts of war, including the long-term impact on the environment,” Ardern said.

“We are with you as you seek peace, but we will also be with you as you rebuild.”

New Zealand’s government on Wednesday pledged a further US$2 million in humanitarian aid to help Ukraine through the winter.

It also highlighted sanctions imposed a day earlier on Iran, which has provided Russia with scores of drones that have attacked Ukrainian towns and infrastructure.