The certification of the dogs and their transfer to the handlers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces after a two-week adaptation course took place on Thursday at the Carpathian Border Guard Unit in Nowy Sacz (southern Poland), according to an Ukrinform correspondent.
During a formal ceremony to hand over the dogs to Ukrainian handlers, European Commission representative Martin Schieffer said that Russian aggression in Ukraine had led to the fact that Ukraine now has thousands of mines and unexploded ammunition, the disposal of which is a significant challenge for Kyiv.
"Ukraine faces a significant challenge that no one has faced before: clearing all territories where these explosive devices are located. This territory occupies as much as the territories of Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands combined," Schieffer said.
Video: Szymon Pruchnicki, Poland's Carpathian Border Guard Unit
The Commandant of the Carpathian Border Guard Unit, Stanislaw Laciuga, noted that proper training conditions had been created for European and Ukrainian dog handlers in Nowy Sacz. He expressed hope that the next stages in the transfer of mine detection dogs to Ukraine would also take place in this city. He added that the level of training of these dogs would help improve security in Ukraine.
Leonid Levchenko, head of the department for the search for explosives by mine detection dogs of the Ukrainian Support Forces Command, thanked European partners for their support and assistance, stressing that this cooperation is "a very important step to ensure peace and stability in Eastern Europe."
"Your support helps us guarantee the security of the country and protect our people from external threats," Levchenko said.
As a sign of gratitude for the assistance to Ukraine, the partners of this project from the European Commission and the Polish Border Guard Service were handed awards from the Commander of the Ukrainian Support Forces - "Crosses of Support Forces."
The dogs (German, Belgian and Dutch shepherds) were trained as part of a European project led by the European Commission's Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs and Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI).
The detection dogs were trained by retired police officers from EU countries, and their training took place in Finland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The training of the dogs lasted for several months, and two weeks before their transfer to Ukraine, the dogs and their handlers arrived in Poland. Therefore, the handover of mine-sniffing dogs to new Ukrainian handlers took place in Poland.
As part of this project, the Ukrainian army also received several special drones that will help detect mines and other explosives.
The estimated cost of the project, which will last until 2025, is EUR 3 million. In total, the European Commission will provide Ukraine with 50 specially trained mine detection dogs. The first group of nine detection dogs was already handed over to Ukraine in March of this year.