Alone Against Death: Russian Sapper Tells How it was to Demine Syria


The detachment of captain Pyotr Vernikov traveled a total of 25km of Syrian roads, where each meter could cost them their lives. The sapper participated in the disarming of 43 handmade bombs, 23 of them disarmed by him personally.

The story of the operation of the Vernikov detachment in the Syrian city of Palmyra and its environs was published by the Krasnaya Zvezda edition.

The Russian Aerospace Force and Syrian army had to liberate the city twice in 2016 and 2017 from ISIS. The captain participated in both missions, aiming to clear the city of explosive devices and carry out engineering inspections. The sappers carefully inspected the roads, buildings and agricultural areas.

Notwithstanding the widespread idea that terrorists install mines only under the ground or on the grass, in fact these can appear anywhere. For example, within an asphalt cover that looks monolithic at first glance. For terrorists a small hole or puddle is enough to install an explosive device inside.

However, Vernikov’s detachment specialists detected these trappings the first time because they had a lot of experience. Sappers are aware of a number of indications that may indicate danger, such as changes in color on the road, traces of fresh soil or a set of stones.

Pyotr Vernikov said that on several occasions his detachment entered villages that had just been liberated from ISIS, where the military should be especially attentive and careful.

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“We had to work with extreme care and maximum concentration, since each of our specialists understood that their actions depended on the preservation of cultural values ​​of worldwide importance,” he explained.

According to the sapper, sometimes they found explosive devices that were not even similar to those demonstrated during training.

“The terrorists were able to install deadly objects in very unexpected places, disguising them in harmless things, like toys and home appliances,” he said.

Vernikov’s detachment had to deal with such deadly traps in 14 villages, completing his mission successfully.

Altogether, throughout the three years of the Russian operation in Syria, the Russian sapers have cleared 6.5 thousand hectares of land, 1.5 thousand km of roads and 19,000 buildings.

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