Children who were blown up: the terrifying commonality of threats to both Azerbaijan and Ukraine
“Daniil was a cheerful boy, who loved to make things, draw, play sports,” recalls the grief-stricken grandfather of 11-year-old Daniil Kharchenko from the Chernihiv region. Before the full-scale Russian aggression began, the boy was in 5th grade.
Last March, together with his mother and 14-year-old brother Bohdan, he tried to escape by car from the rabid occupiers who had seized most of Chernihiv Region.
A Russian landmine destroyed the car on the Chernihiv-Kyiv highway: the children were burned to death and their mother was thrown out of the car by the blast wave, killing her as well.
Almost a year earlier, in June 2021, another 11-year-old boy, Gismet Bayramov, who lived in a village in the Kelbajar region of Azerbaijan, had gone out in search of his father’s missing horses
He grew up in a farming family, so this chore was not new to him. But this time the boy did not return home. They searched for him for almost three months. By the end of September, sappers found fragments of Gismet’s body in a mountainous area not far from the village.
It was mined by Armenian troops retreating from the area in November 2020. Then, during the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan was able to liberate most of its sovereign territories, which had been occupied for 30 years with the connivance of the Russian Federation. But there was no fighting in the Kelbajar region: Armenian troops retreated from the area voluntarily after defeat in the war. “Mines were planted there during the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the Kelbajar district…,” Azerbaijani representative Yashar Aliyev explained, speaking at a UN Security Council meeting last December.
“These actions are aimed at preventing large-scale recovery and reconstruction efforts in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan and preventing hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people from returning to their homes … after nearly 30 years of occupation and ethnic cleansing,” Foreign Minister Bayramov said in an address to the UN Secretary-General in November.
That is why, whilst leaving Karabakh, Armenian troops mined these territories – just as Putin’s aggressors did before fleeing from Bucha, Irpen and other settlements of the Kiev region. “There is confirmed evidence that Russian troops have been planting booby traps and improvised explosive devices in Ukraine since February 2022 in many locations before retreating and abandoning their positions,” noted a November report by the international group Landmine Monitor 2022.
The tragic fates of 11-year-old Daniil and his peer Gismet serve as heartbreaking confirmation of the commonality between Ukraine and Azerbaijan in confronting external aggression, threats of pro-Russian separatism and mine terrorism.
“After the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukraine has become the most mine, bomb and shell-contaminated country in Europe,” Prime Minister Shmigal said on April 4th.
“Azerbaijan is among the most mine-contaminated countries in the world,” President Aliyev noted the same month.
“In Ukraine, 124 people, including six children, have been killed by mines since the invasion began,” Beregulya, head of the MoD’s Environmental Security and Mine Action Department, said on April 22nd.
“Up to 300 citizens of Azerbaijan have been killed or seriously injured as a result of Armenian mine terrorism,” President Aliyev further said in April.
In a letter to the UN Secretary General, Bayramov, the republic’s foreign minister, noted in November last year that since November 2020, “nine children and teenagers” have lost their lives to mines.
Meanwhile, the pro-Russian Armenian website Oragir.news posted a video teaching sixth-graders in Yerevan to plant anti-personnel mines. “A mine is an engineering munition designed to target people,” Yeprem Margaryan, chief of staff of the Atan military-patriotic organization, explains in the video.
He is also the deputy commander of the so called “Eagles 30 Ararat” suicide bombing squad. Judging by the publications on their Facebook page this unit is a partner of the pro-Russian Armenian organization “International Union of Cossack Peacekeepers,” which posted a greeting with a Russian flag and five-pointed red star on its profile on February 23 this year.
This article was originally published on EU Today on May 7, 2023.