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A TERRIBLE REMINDER OF THE AUGUST WAR: A LARGE-SCALE MINESWEEPING OPERATION IN THE VILLAGE OF SKRA
19 February, 2015
A TERRIBLE REMINDER OF THE AUGUST WAR: A LARGE-SCALE MINESWEEPING OPERATION IN THE VILLAGE OF SKRA
In August of 2008, Russian soldiers did far more than just invade Georgia – they also engaged in looting sprees, taking away anything that struck their fancy and destroying whatever they couldn’t carry. That way, Georgian Armed Forces lost over 170,000 units of ordnance in several seconds, when Russian soldiers mined and blew up an underground military vault near the village of Skra, Gori region.

Destruction of this vault might not seem significant in the face of other things Georgia
lost in the war, but it is actually much more relevant, because unlike destroyed husks of tanks and armored personnel carriers, it still remains dangerous. There is a strong suspicion that the explosion has not turned everything inside into scrap and a good portion of unexploded ordnance remains. Sooner or later, rains and mudslides will unearth them, endangering the lives of all who come near, not to mention the hazard of harmful chemical substances leaking from damaged munitions ending up in a nearby river through groundwater.
Despite widespread looting and marauding, it is clear that destruction of the concrete-walled vault was too precise and calculated to have been a random act of destruction and Russian soldiers were most likely directed to the location by one of the locals.

NATO responded to the challenge Georgia is facing by organizing a trust fund project called “Georgia IV” within the framework of Partnership for Peace, which is funded by NATO Support Agency as well as Czech Republic and Lithuania. Its financial reserves comprise 1.6 million euros. Specialists of the military-technical center Delta as well as 30 experienced sappers from Defense Ministry’s Engineering Brigade will perform in the operation.

In July and August of 2009, the Defense Ministry’s sappers collected the munitions and their remains scattered around the vault and destroyed them at a polygon, but the main danger still lurks beneath the mass of mud and stones that was brought down from the nearby mountain by the explosion. Mortar – shells 82- and 120-mm – represent a particularly acute risk because they were armed when the explosion took place.
Conducting a humanitarian clearance operation in Skra, which means making sure that no explosive or otherwise hazardous materials remain, is going to be a very costly and technically difficult endeavor. NATO responded to the challenge Georgia is facing by organizing a trust fund project called “Georgia IV” within the framework of Partnership for Peace, which is funded by NATO Support Agency as well as Czech Republic and Lithuania. Its financial reserves comprise 1.6 million euros. Specialists of the military-technical center Delta as well as 30 experienced sappers from Defense Ministry’s Engineering Brigade will perform in the operation.
Caucasus military history has very few equivalents of the mine clearance operation currently starting in Skra. It is, of course, sad that 1,200 tons of munitions bought by Georgian taxpayer money failed to be utilized against the invading enemy, but perhaps this will be counterbalanced by an act of goodwill such as making sure that none of these munitions can cause harm to Georgians in the future.

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