THE SUN has joined the cat-and-mouse game between British-trained bomb disposal teams in Ukraine and the cowardly fleeing Russian soldiers laying deadly traps to kill troops and civilians.
Horrors include trip-wires that link to tank mines and hand grenades in first-aid kits.
We saw a three-storey building reduced to a gaping shell after one team triggered a room rigged with ground-launch rockets.
A British-trained member of this heroic force told me: “You have to be cleverer than your enemy. They are trying to kill you.
“Once you realise that, you can get inside their heads.”
The building, stuffed with armaments, was destroyed when search operatives painstakingly prised open a booby-trapped door with a very long piece of rope.
The blast tore apart the building, yet thanks to the skill of the cool-headed UXB experts, everyone walked away unhurt.
British-trained Captain Roman, 31, said of the frontline peril: “These traps were made with passion.”
At least one police bomb squad specialist and one suspected looter have been severely wounded by booby traps since Russian forces abandoned Kherson this month.
Roman said the looter was “lucky to be alive”.
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He added: “We found him the next morning. He couldn’t walk, he had lost sight in one eye, he was nearly dead but he survived.”
The bomb squad ace lost a leg.
The Sun followed Roman’s team as it worked to make safe the HQ of Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service, which Russian troops and FSB spooks had used as a base during their brutal eight-month occupation.
He revealed: “Every second room is mined and every mine is different. You have to understand, they are hunting you.
The main thing with de-mining is to be cleverer than your enemy. They are trying to kill you. Once you realise that, you can get inside their heads and understand what they were thinking when they laid the traps.
“The main thing with de-mining is to be cleverer than your enemy.
“They are trying to kill you. Once you realise that, you can get inside their heads and understand what they were thinking when they laid the traps for you.”
His team found a block of plastic explosives cut into the seat of an office chair and hidden under an office printer.
In another room they discovered a first-aid kit discarded next to a filing cabinet.
He said: “You see a med kit and your mind tells you it is safe, but nothing is safe — It was a trap.
“The med kit was rigged up to a small grenade and to a larger lump of explosives. If you picked it up it would go off.”
His courageous crew removed the secondary device and exploded the first-aid kit where they found it.
On the other side of the bomb-blitzed corridor was an office.
Roman said: “The room was almost empty but there was a desk and pile of trash — on top the trash a tin of tuna.”
Roman’s team was then on high alert, because they had spotted tell-tale marks in the dust on the desk which resembled the shape a small block of explosives.
He said: “The British taught us the importance of systematically gathering up all the information that you can from your environment, to analyse what is going on.
“Every action leaves a trace. We saw the marks on the table. We were looking for that block of explosives — and we found it in the tuna tin.”
Local Ukrainian intelligence agents reckon the HQ staff’s rivalry with Russia’s FSB spooks may have been why the site was so perilously primed with explosives.
Russian warmonger Vladimir Putin’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his troops to beat an abject retreat from Kherson after commanders realised they could no longer resupply their positions on the west bank of the city’s Dnipro River.
But the long-planned withdrawal gave Russian troops weeks to leave callous calling cards in the shape of their deadly traps.
The Sun watched as Roman’s comrades used plastic explosives to detonate one suspected booby trap beneath a fir tree in the building’s courtyard.
The trunk was surrounded by felled branches, which had aroused the team’s suspicion.
It later turned out a nearby basement full of Soviet-era KGB archives had two anti-tank mines and a hand grenade wired to the inside of a closed metal door.
Roman said: “If you opened the door the grenade would go off and detonate the tank mines.”
Asked how he manages his fear in the face of such terror, he said simply: “You have to be able to freeze your emotions.
“You have to think all the time and keep your mind clear.”
In another room, which had been used as a dormitory, he showed us the remnants of two anti-tank mines that had exploded.
Both had been wired up to thick metal doors, which the teams heaved open with ropes from a careful distance.
The walls and ceiling had been scorched by the blast, which also pulverised nearby furniture.
But Roman said it had been only a “partial detonation”.
You see a med kit and your mind tells you it is safe, but nothing is safe — It was a trap. The med kit was rigged up to a small grenade and to a larger lump of explosives. If you picked it up it would go off.
Holding a slice of olive-green metal from the rim of the exploded mine, he said: “There was probably a hand grenade attached to the anti-tank mine. The hand grenade went off and it detonated some of the tank mine’s explosives. But it hasn’t gone of off properly. If it went off properly we wouldn’t find these big pieces of shrapnel.”
One of his trainers was a former Royal Engineer who served in Afghanistan as part of a search unit hunting down Taliban IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
The ex-soldier, affectionately known to his students as Cheeks we are not printing his real name), said: “People like Roman are heroes. It is amazing to see what they are doing. Unoccupied building entries are one of the worst scenarios imaginable — the most vulnerable from a booby trap perspective.”
At another government building, around 100 yards away, a second team found booby traps rigged to lethal ground-launch rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-personnel mines.
Lt Col Andrey, 41, the team’s commander, said: “When we arrived the whole perimeter was rigged with trip wires and rocket- propelled grenades so if you picked them up they exploded.”
His crew discovered a hand grenade wrapped up in white paper and chillingly bearing the Russian word “Podarok” or “gift”, spelled out in black pen.
The married father-of-one said: “The Russians were provoking us, trying to lure us into their traps.”
In the basement of a three-storey building, his contingent also found a store of weaponry.
He said: “There were boxes of ammunition — rockets, shells, bar mines. It looked like they were inviting us to take it. But it was a trap. We checked all the doors and they were wired.
“We tied a rope round one of the doors, then ran it outside and around a flag pole and attached the other end to the car.
“I was driving the car. I felt the rope go tight and then there was a huge explosion. There were bricks and rocks landing on our car and dust everywhere.
“Three storeys of the building had totally collapsed. It was a huge explosion. Luckily no one was hurt, but it shows you the traps the Russians are leaving for us.”
In another part of the compound the team came upon a MON-90 anti-personnel mine — which sends a devastating blast of ball bearings at its victims — hidden behind a radiator and wired to a trip wire at the end of a corridor.
Lt Col Andrey said: “If we had set it off it would have killed everyone.”
Asked if he ever gets scared by the ultimate stakes of his job, the veteran of 20 years’ proud service admitted: “Only fools aren’t afraid. The day you aren’t afraid is the day to quit.”
But he added with steadfast resolve: “You can be afraid and still be focused. You learn to clear your mind and to focus on the job in front of you. The lives of my team depend on it.”
- Additional reporting: Oleksii Kulyk