MINE SITUATION, FEBRUARY 2024
Problems connected with humanitarian demining in Serbia are numerous and the speed of their solving depends on provision of funds for demining.
For coordination of works related to humanitarian demining and management of projects in the field of such demining in Serbia, the Serbian Mine Action Centre (SMAC) was founded in 2002.
Upon foundation of the SMAC, representatives of relevant international organizations have requested that the SMAC, as well as centers in other countries in the region, is founded as an independent state authority out of so called ministries of force. It was pointed out then that only if the SMAC is a civilian authority which is not within the Ministry of Defense or Ministry of Interior, it can count on the help of the international foundations and donors.
The SMAC, among other things, conducts surveys of the locations contaminated with cluster munitions, mines and other UXO, keeps records on it, makes projects and project tasks for demining, executes quality control of demining works during and after the completion of works, issues certificate that certain area determined with a project is demined, that is, cleared from mines and UXO in accordance with the International Mine Action Standards. Also, the Centre conducts international cooperation and works related to provision of donations for demining. It supervises appliance of international contracts and standards in the field of demining and executes other works determined by the law.
Demining works in Serbia, in accordance with the International Mine Action Standards, are conducted by specialized companies and nongovernmental organizations which are registered for these works, are technically equipped and have adequate personnel.
Tender procedures for selection of contractors for implementation of demining projects funded from international donations conducts a donor, as a rule by the participation of international foundations through which the donor channels donations. In other cases, tender procedures are conducted by an investor.
The following data of the areas contaminated with cluster munitions, air bombs – rockets, mines and other unexploded ordnance do not refer to the land and objects used by the Army and Police in Serbia.
It has been established that during the 1999 bombing of our country, NATO dropped cluster bombs in 16 municipalities in the Republic of Serbia without Kosovo and Metohija: (Niš City-Municipality of Medijana and Municipality of Crveni Krst, Kraljevo, Brus, Preševo, Bujanovac, Kuršumlija, Raška, Gadžin Han, Tutin, Sjenica,Čačak, Vladimirci, Knić, Stara Pazova and Sopot).
During the bombing NATO forces used the following cluster bombs: RBL-755, CBU-87, CBU-99, AGM – 154/A and BL-755 which contained 145-247 pieces of cluster munitions type MK-1, MK-4, MK-118, BLU-97A and BLU-97A/B.
During and immediately after the bombing, the Serbian Army and police conducted removal of unexploded cluster munitions from the surface, which contributed significantly to safety of people and substantially influenced the reduction of the number of the injured, above all, children.
Given that cluster munitions that went through the ground were not detected and destroyed, the removal has to be done now in order to provide complete safety to people.
In the territory of the Republic of Serbia, cluster munitions can be still found in the area of around 610.000 sqm.
In accordance with the International Mine Action Standards, so far, the area of 13,500,000 sqm has been cleared.
The funds for clearance of the above area have been procured:
- Through ITF Enhancing Human Security from the donations of the USA, Norway, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic and Republic of Korea;
- The Niš Tobacco factory financed clearance of the area within its factory in 2004;
- Ministry of Capital Investments of the Republic of Serbia and the Directorate for Urban Planning and Construction in Raška Municipality in 2006 and in 2009 funded clearance of cluster munitions in two locations on the Kopaonik Mountain, while in 2016, Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services SMATSA d.o.o. funded cluster munitions clearance in one location on the Kopaonik Mountain.
- The Government of the Russian Federation funded clearance – demining of cluster munitions from four locations in Niš in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014.
Air Bombs – Rockets
It is assumed that from the 1999 bombing of our country, unexploded air bombs-rockets can be found in around 150 locations in ground at the depth of up to 20 meters.
Survey of other locations suspected to be contaminated with unexploded air bombs – rockets is in progress.
After obtaining relevant information, the SMAC, in cooperation with ITF, organized a survey in the villages of Jamena, Morović and Batrovci, Municipality of Šid, in the border area with Croatia, in the area of around 10.000.000 sqm which was mine suspected.
It was established that antipersonnel and antitank mines were emplaced in so called mixed minefields in the area of 5,906,791 sqm.
Demining of minefields in the villages of Jamena, Morović and Batrovci, Municipality of Šid (border area with Croatia), in the area of 5,906,791 sqm was completed on 10 November 2009 in accordance with 44 projects by the SMAC and with the supervision of the SMAC. In the above area 5.139 various types of mines and other unexploded ordnance were detected, removed and destroyed. Demined area is returned to its owners for safe use.
For demining of the above area, ITF provided funds from donations of the USA, Spain, Germany, Norway, Canada, Czech Republic and EU for implementation of 43 projects, whereas one project was funded by the Building Directorate of Serbia.
In the territory of Serbia, along the border area with Croatia, there are no more minefields.
Stockpiles of AP mines were destroyed in May 2007.
Antipersonnel mines are no longer produced in Serbia.
In late 2009, the SMAC obtained knowledge that there are various types of mines along the administrative line with Kosovo and Metohija.
With the help of the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and ITF, the SMAC has conducted a survey of the area. It was established that confirmed mine hazardous areas in 10 locations in Municipality of Bujanovac and Municipality of Preševo totalled around 3,500,000 sqm.
The SMAC has prepared several projects and in 2012, after lobbying with ITF and other donors, funds for implementation of two projects developed by the SMAC were provided. One in Preševo, area of 88,032 sqm, was funded through ITF by the US Government, and one in Bujanovac, area of 75,987 sqm, was funded through ITF by the Federal Republic of Germany.
In 2013, although the SMAC prepared several demining projects, there were no demining operations due to lack of funds for their implementation.
In 2014, two projects by the SMAC was implemented in the Municipality of Preševo, area of 270,616 sqm. The funds were provided, through ITF, by the US.
In 2017, one project by the SMAC was implemented in the Municipality of Bujanovac, total area of 275.800 sqm. The funds were provided by the Serbian Government which were matched, through ITF, by the US donation.
In April 2018, one more project by the SMAC was implemented in the Municipality of Bujanovac, total area of 113.600 sqm. The funds were provided by the Serbian Government which were matched, through ITF, by the US donation.
In the period September – December 2018, four projects by the SMAC were implemented in the Municipality of Bujanovac, total area of 509,420 sqm. The funds were provided by the Serbian Government which were matched, through ITF, by the US donation and the donation of the Republic of Korea.
In the period June – November 2019, three projects by the SMAC were implemented in the Municipality of Bujanovac, total area of 606.210 sqm.
The funds for one project were provided by the Serbian Government which were matched, through ITF, by the US donation and the donation of the Republic of Korea.
One project was funded by Japan, with the support of the U.S., through ITF.
One project was financed by the Joint Stock Company “Elektromreža Srbije” – Transmission System Maintenance Division, Belgrade.
In the period Оctober – December 2020, one project by the SMAC was implemented in the Municipality of Bujanovac, total area of 269.280 sqm
The funds for the project were provided by the Serbian Government which were matched, through ITF, by the US donation.
In October 2021, one project by the SMAC was implemented in the Municipality of Bujanovac, total area of 294.230 sqm The funds for the project were provided by the Serbian Government which were matched, through ITF, by the Republic of Korea and U.S. donation.
Furthermore, in October 2021, Demining Project of the 10 kV and 110kV transmission line route in the territory of the Bujanovac Municipality, total area 298,700 sqm was completed. The funds were provided, through ITF, by the U.S.
In September and October 2022, two projects by the SMAC were implemented in the Municipality of Bujanovac, total area of 171.500 sqm. The funds for the projects were provided by the Serbian Government which were matched, through ITF, by the Republic of Korea and U.S. donation.
It is suspected that in Bujanovac mines can be found in the area of around 390,000 sqm, as well as at the locations where forest fires broke out in August 2019 and August 2021, and according to eyewitnesses, on several locations explosions could be heard after the fire, indicating the existence of mines in the area. A survey of the area in order to confirm or reject suspicions of the mine contamination will be conducted in the coming period.
Other Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) on land
It is assumed that after fire and explosion at the military depots in Paraćin, Kraljevo, Vranje, various types of unexploded ordnance or their parts are located outside of military objects in the area of about 18.500.000 sqm.
For other locations suspected to be contaminated with various types of UXO, a preliminary risk assessment survey is in progress.
The Russian Federal Agency “Emercom” in the period 2009-2018, as the Russian assistance to our country in the field of humanitarian demining, conducted UXO clearance of 12 micro locations in Paraćin and Ćuprija, totaling 5,986,060 sqm in accordance with our projects and our supervising. 12,826 pieces of various types of unexploded ordnance were found and destroyed.
Other Unexploded Ordnance in inner waterways
From the 1999 bombing of our country, unexploded air bombs-rockets can be found in the Sava River and the Danube River: (Bridge Bogojevo – Erdut, Bridge Bačka Palanka – Ilok, Novi Sad 1 – upstream the Sloboda bridge, Novi Sad 2- downsteram the railway bridge, Pančevo Port, Transmission line Ritopek – Ivanovo, Bridge Smederevo – Kovin, Prahovo Port, Šabac, Obrenovac 1 – in the vicinity of thermal power plant, Obrenovac 2 – in the vicinity of Barič factory).
It is suspected that in the Sava river, in the area of the Jamena Village, there are improvised mines remaining from the 1999-1995 conflicts.
In the Đerdap Gorge, on the Danube River, in the vicinity of Prahovo, in 1944, German war vessels containing large quantity of unexploded ordnance, including anti-ship mines, were sunken. In 2006, a survey was conducted and the positions of 23 sunken vessels were determined as well as the existence of various types of UXO and anti-ship mines on 4 vessels. These UXO pose a threat to people and environment and significantly obstruct navigation in this part of the Danube.
For other locations in the inner waterways of the Republic of Serbia, suspected to be contaminated with various types of UXO, a preliminary risk assessment survey is in progress.
The Serbian Mine Action Centre achieves international cooperation with numerous subjects in the field of mine action.
Cooperation with the ITF, as well as regional cooperation through various forms of the work of the Southeastern Europe Mine Action Coordination Council, known as SEEMACC, gives good results in the field of mine action.
After the foundation of the SMAC, ITF strongly supported the SMAC at first providing donations for training of personnel, technical equipping and survey of the mine suspected area, and in 2003 started funding our projects for humanitarian demining.
ITF and the SMAC signed the Memorandum of Understanding which further enhances cooperation between the SMAC and ITF.
In addition, the SMAC established cooperation with the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Agency „Emercom“ which the ninth year in a row, as the Russian assistance to our country, conduct clearance of cluster munitions and other UXO in Serbia.
The SMAC and the Russian State Agency „Emercom“ signed the Memorandum of Understanding by which are created assumptions for implementation of the Program of humanitarian demining in Serbia funded by the Government of the Russian Federation.
Funding Humanitarian Demining
Since the resolving of problems related to humanitarian demining in the countries of Western Balkans has been going on for a long time, and that there is a need for clearance of large areas in some countries of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and some parts of the former Soviet Union, donor interest in funding demining in the region and in Serbia has been weakened, and donors have been increasingly directing its resources for demining in countries outside Europe.
In addition, donors have been more and more distinctively demanding of Serbia to allocate funds for demining operations as other countries in the region do.
The largest donors more and more often emphasize that Serbia is the only country that does not allocate budget funds for humanitarian demining. (Till 2014, Serbia has not allocated funds from the budget for this purpose).
In order to increase or at least maintain the current level of donations for demining projects in the country, Mine Action Centre of the Republic of Serbia in all meetings with international organizations and donors emphasizes that Serbia allocates funds for humanitarian demining by financing activities of the MAC as the state authority which is entirely financed from the budget, as well as the work of the Sector for Emergency situations of the Ministry of Interior, whose experts on a daily basis throughout Serbia destroy unexploded ordnance, including those that are found on the projects financed from donations. Nevertheless, due to difficult economic crisis, Serbia has not been able to fund clearance operations in the previous period.
However, despite this, at the meetings of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, held at the semi-annual and annual basis, Serbia receives recommendations that it should allocate funds for clearance operations from its own budget, which would send positive signals to donors and prove that Serbia will complete its commitments within the required deadline.
In addition, the Federal Republic of Germany has gone a step further and took the position that they will fund some projects for demining in Serbia only if Serbia allocates at least 10% of the donations given by Germany.
If this principle is applied by other donors, it would be a big problem for future demining in Serbia, which is almost entirely funded by donations.
Given the aforementioned, it is necessary at various levels, including through diplomatic channels, to indicate to donors that Serbia has been doing everything possible to get our country clean of cluster munitions, landmines and other unexploded ordinance, but bearing in mind the economic situation in Serbia, we appeal to donor governments to continue providing assistance to Serbia in the field of humanitarian demining.