A bomb squad works to safely detonate cluster munitions in Ukraine : The Picture Show Ukrainian forces are struggling to detonate mines that scatter over a wide area and are internationally banned, known as "cluster munitions."

See how Kharkiv's bomb squad neutralizes cluster bombs in Ukraine

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Human rights groups are accusing the Russian military of using cluster munitions in Ukraine. These are explosives that scatter over a wide area. They detonate either on a timer or when something or someone goes over them. Cluster munitions are banned internationally because they maim and kill indiscriminately. Russia denies using them, but authorities in Ukraine say that's not true. NPR's Eyder Peralta followed a Ukrainian outfit searching for cluster munitions in the hopes of neutralizing them.


EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: When we arrive to Bilashi with the bomb squad, it's peaceful. The trees have nascent leaves. The fields are green.


PERALTA: One of the villagers rustles through the grass and comes toward us with his palms open.

What is that? Is that shrapnel?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Russian).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It's something that hits their windows.

PERALTA: What he has in his hands are pieces of charred metal.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Through interpreter) It's difficult to go through this when you're sober.

(Speaking Russian).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: He can't understand how brother fights brother.

PERALTA: The man is in his 70s. His eyes are red. He looks absolutely desolate.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Russian).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: He can't understand, what is it for?

PERALTA: He walks off without giving us his name. His neighbor, Yurij Yes’kov, says this little village has been shelled consistently since March. And the night before, a Russian rocket flew overhead, dropping bomblets all over the fields.

YURIJ YES'KOV: (Through interpreter) There was one today that exploded itself.

PERALTA: He says the pattern here is clear. The Ukrainian military sends reconnaissance teams into the village, and the Russians begin shelling. He shakes his head. His vegetable garden is now full of mines. His son has been fighting in the trenches, and he can't seem to make sense of this war.

YES'KOV: (Through interpreter) Of course, they want peace. They don't want this shelling. They want peace.

PERALTA: While we've been talking, the bomb squad has already suited up.


PERALTA: So the bomb squad here has put a charge at the end of what looks like a big fishing pole. And the plan is to drop it next to these mines and explode them.

They connect cables to a detonator. They wind it to create a charge.

MAKSIM: (Speaking Russian).


MAKSIM: (Speaking Russian).

PERALTA: Maksim, the deputy head of the Kharkiv pyrotechnic department who asks we only use first names, says they have found Russian anti-tank mines. Suddenly, a small group of military men show up on pickup trucks - a reconnaissance mission. The old men take off toward their homes. The military men throw a drone in the sky, and a still spring day gives way to war.


PERALTA: The Russian border is just 20 miles from here. There's a Russian position within sight.


PERALTA: All right. Let's get there, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Come on. Let's go.

PERALTA: Come on, guys. Hey, let's go. Anya.

We leave. It's too unpredictable, too dangerous. Later, we learned that the bomb squad detonated 24 bomblets. They only did the ones that they could see on the hard surfaces. The fields are still full of these bombs. The mayor of the town told us that three people died that day because of Russian shelling. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Bilashi in northeastern Ukraine.

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