IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


11th August, 2022 Security

 Copyright infringement is not intended


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

What are these mines and what kind of damage can they afflict?

  • As per the bulletin, these mines have the potential to inflict widespread casualties amongst both the military and the local civilian population.
  • In Donetsk and Kramatorsk, Russia has highly likely attempted employment of PFM-1 and PFM-1S scatterable anti-personnel mines. Commonly called the ‘butterfly mine’, the PFM-1 series are deeply controversial, indiscriminate weapons.
  • PFM-1s were used to devastating effect in the Soviet-Afghan War where they allegedly maimed high numbers of children who “mistook them for toys”.
  • This poses a threat to both the local population and humanitarian mine clearance operations, the bulletin says.
  • 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’.


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.