HRAKOW, Ukraine (Reuters) – A Ukrainian farmer has come up with a new way to clear the mines left in his fields after the Russian invasion, outfitting his tractor with protective panels stripped from Russian tanks and operating them by remote control. .
After Russian forces were driven out of parts of eastern Ukraine by a Ukrainian counterattack last year, many fields remain mined, making it risky for farmers to grow grain for the next harvest.
The fields around the village of Hrakov are no exception. Oleksandr Kryvtsov, the general manager at his agricultural company, decided he couldn’t wait to get help from overworked official miners to clear his field.
Instead, he designed a remote-controlled tractor that could withstand explosions. Using shields from damaged Russian military vehicles to protect the body of his tractor, he purchased a system that would enable one of his team to operate the tractor remotely from a backhoe bucket suspended in the nearby air.
“We started doing it just because it’s time to plant crops and we can’t do anything because the rescue services are too busy,” Krivtsov told Reuters.
“We ran over an anti-tank mine. The protection exploded (but) the tractor is safe. Everyone is alive and safe. The equipment has been recovered and repaired,” he said.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said last week that about 30% of Ukraine’s land has been mined by Russians and that the government is focused on demining farmland as quickly as possible.
“We don’t have time to mine the fields. The amount of work is enormous,” said Serhiy Dudak, head of the demining unit that is now overseeing the tractor’s work. “It will take years to mine this field by hand and to ensure that there are no mines here.”
(Reporting by Vitaly Henedy; Writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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