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What is Butterfly Mine?

Context:

The UK Ministry of Defence, in its intelligence assessment of the ongoing war in Ukraine, has and sounded an alarm on the possible use of PFM-1 series ‘Butterfly Mines’ by the Russian military in Donetsk and Kramatorsk.

Relevance:

GS III: Defence

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the ‘Butterfly Mine’ and why is it called so?
  2. How are these mines associated with Soviet Union and Afghanistan?
  3. Are these kind of mines allowed by international law?

What is the ‘Butterfly Mine’ and why is it called so?

  • The PFM-1 and PFM-1S are two kinds of anti-personnel landmines that are commonly referred to as ‘Butterfly mines’ or ‘Green Parrots’.
  • These names are derived from the shape and colour of the mines.
  • The main difference between the PFM-1 and PFM-1S mine is that the latter comes with a self destruction mechanism which gets activated within one to 40 hours.
  • The ‘Butterfly mine’ has earned a reputation for being particularly attractive to children because it looks like a coloured toy.
  • It is very sensitive to touch and just the act of picking it up can set it off.
  • Because of the relatively lesser explosive packed in this small mine, it often injures and maims the handler rather than killing them. These mines are also difficult to detect because they are made of plastic and can evade metal detectors.
  • These mines can be deployed in the field of action through several means, which include being dropped from helicopters or through ballistic dispersion using artillery and mortar shells.
  • These mines glide to the ground without exploding and later explode on coming in contact.
  • Since these mines were green in colour when they were first put to use they also earned the name ‘Green Parrots’.

How are these mines associated with Soviet Union and Afghanistan?

  • By some estimates more than a million ‘Butterfly mines’ litter Afghanistan and were airdropped in valleys and mountain passes to impede the movement of the Afghan Mujahideen.
  • More than 30,000 Afghans are believed to have been victims of these mines and a large number of children were among the casualties.

Are these kind of mines allowed by international law?

  • The anti personal mines are banned by international convention on land lines but Russia and Ukraine are not signatories to it.
  • However, there is a 1996 Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons-the Landlines Protocol to which Russia and Ukraine are signatories.
  • In the ongoing conflict, both countries have accused each other of having used these mines, since both posses them in sufficient numbers.
  • Allegations and counter-allegations of the use of these mines have been made in Mariupol, Kharkiv and now Donetsk.

-Source: The Indian Express


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