The explosive detection dog Patron, during a day of work in kyiv, Ukraine.
Photo: AFP Agency
Patron, the two-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, credited with detecting at least 262 explosives in Ukraine, received a medal from President Volodymyr Zelensky in recognition of his services to the country.
“He’s a small but very famous excavator,” Zelensky said of Patron.
The award ceremony for Patron, whose name means “ammunition” in Ukrainian, took place in the middle of an event that included the participation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in which boys and girls were taught to avoid mines. land, one of the “most urgent” tasks for the Ukrainian government at the moment.
“Even if the dog barked at me, we’re helping to finance that,” joked Trudeau, who unexpectedly arrived in kyiv to announce a new $50 million additional military aid package for Ukraine.
Dogs like Patron have been used for demining in war camps since World War II, given their enormous ability to detect explosive devices. Technological advances have not been able to replace the performance a canine can have in conflict zones, since the animals are most effective in spaces where debris obstructs standard metal detectors, he explains. Washington Post.
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After his story became known, Patron became a great patriotic symbol for citizens in kyiv and throughout the country. His popularity has translated into supportive social media posts, artistic portraits, cartoons, and even the making of toys in his likeness. However, his exploits have not been verified by foreign media.
Stories of heroism like Patron’s are very popular in times of war and are central to the information strategy of a country in conflict. Sometimes, however, these narratives can be constructed by governments, as seen with the legend of the “Ghost of kyiv”, a pilot who allegedly shot down several Russian aircraft. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense itself ended up admitting that it was a false story.
Although antipersonnel landmines have been banned by most countries since the signing of the Ottawa Convention in 1997, evidence has been found indicating that Russia, which was not added to the aforementioned document, has used this type of weapon in residential areas. and agriculture in Ukraine. Other military powers, such as the United States and China, did not sign the Convention document.
For this reason, the use of canines such as Patron will continue to be important for years to come. Ukrainian authorities estimate that it will take decades to neutralize the thousands of devices that have been left on Ukrainian territory in the two months since the war.
“It will take 50 years to clear everything,” said Perrine Benoist, director of armed violence reduction at Handicap International, who recalled that “we are still clearing mines in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam 56 years later.”
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“The killing and maiming will continue long after the war is over,” said Steve Goose, director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch. “It will be a matter of years, if not decades, to clean everything up.”
More than 300,000 km2 of Ukraine, about half of the country’s territory, are contaminated with explosive devices, Oleh Bondar, head of Ukrainian civil security demining services, told AFP.
“It includes the territory of Donetsk, the Lugansk region and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as the waters of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea,” Bondar said.
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