Saving innocents from landmines

Ukrainian director for mine action, Anthony Connell, was back on home soil recently, and Metropol’s deputy editor Daniella Judge took the time to chat to him.

Anthony Connell is no stranger to war, having served as a New Zealand solider in Iraq. After his service, he was recommended for a role at the Foundation Suisse de Déminage (FSD), and his new career involving “mine action” began.

FSD is a Swiss non-governmental organisation (NGO) that destroys mines and explosive remnants of war, decontaminates polluted sites, and supports peace and development in unstable countries. The organisation also provides vital education to children and adults on how to spot explosive devices.

Currently serving as the Ukrainian Director for the FSD, Anthony’s primary responsibility is to collaborate with local groups to oversee the removal of missiles in different provinces of Ukraine. This responsibility is important in a country where approximately 1.5 million landmines exist as remnants of conflicts which began in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The ongoing conflict has had a devastating impact on the population, with many areas witnessing a sharp decline in their numbers due to a combination of displacement and fatalities. Unfortunately, the lack of proper record-keeping has made it difficult to accurately account for casualties, Anthony says.

Since the early days of the invasion, many of his colleagues have continually faced serious danger, with one losing his life, and another still missing. Anthony talks about key areas in the Ukraine which are especially war-torn, Chernihiv being one of them. Chernihiv sits approximately 60km south of the Russian/Ukraine northern border and was attacked by Russian military in February 2022. Severe damage was caused to the outer suburbs of Chernihiv, and a significant amount of landmines and unexploded ordnance affects the area. More than 50,000 people have fled.
Despite the dangers, and his last apartment being blown to bits, Anthony feels quite safe living 120km from the war area. He says, “the beer is good, and the food is good.” He describes the Ukrainian people as very resilient, and extremely grateful to have international helpers there.

“There is enough need in Ukraine to keep me busy for decades to come.”

Anthony’s contributions are instrumental in promoting peace and stability in the region.

Support Ukraine

During his recent visit to Christchurch, Anthony spoke to the residents of his mother Moyra’s retirement village about his job and the state of Ukraine. Organised by Zonta, The Russley Village residents dedicated weeks of hard work, knitting extraordinary woollen items to give Anthony for the people of Ukraine. Anthony intends to distribute these goods where they are most needed.
If you’re interested in helping those struggling due to the Russo-Ukraine war, Anthony recommends donating to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which he sees making real positive change in the Ukraine.


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