Mass grave found in recaptured city in Ukraine, says Zelenskyy

Ukrainian authorities have found a mass burial site near a recovered northeastern city previously occupied by Russian forces, Preside...


Ukrainian authorities have found a mass burial site near a recovered northeastern city previously occupied by Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late on Thursday.

“A mass grave of people was found in Izium, in the Kharkiv region. The necessary procedures have already started there. More information – clear and verifiable information – should be available tomorrow,” Zelenskyy said in his televised speech.

Associated Press journalists spotted the site in a forest on the outskirts of Izium on Thursday. Among the trees were hundreds of graves with simple wooden crosses, most marked only with numbers. A larger grave had a plaque saying it contained the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers.

Ukrainian investigators were already at work scanning the site with metal detectors in search of hidden explosives.

Russia Ukraine War
Oleg Kotenko, Commissioner for Missing Persons Affairs in Special Circumstances, examines the unmarked graves of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers in the recently retaken area of ​​Izium, Ukraine, Thursday, September 15, 2022.

Evgeniy Maloletka / AP


Oleg Kotenko, a Ukrainian ministry official charged with reintegrating occupied territories, said videos Russian soldiers posted on social media indicated there were likely more than 17 bodies in the mass grave.

“We haven’t counted them yet, but I think it’s more than 25 or even 30,” he said.

Izium resident Sergei Gorodko said that among the hundreds buried in individual graves were dozens of adults and children killed in a Russian air strike on an apartment building. He said he pulled some of them out of the rubble “with my bare hands”.

In his address to the nation, Zelenskyy invoked the names of other Ukrainian cities where officials said the withdrawal of Russian troops left behind mass graves of civilians and evidence of possible war crimes.

“Bucha, Mariupol, now, unfortunately, Izium… Russia leaves death everywhere. And it must be held responsible for it. The world must hold Russia responsible for this war,” he said.

Sergei Bolvinov, a senior investigator for Ukrainian police in the eastern region of Kharkiv, told British TV station Sky News that a pit containing more than 440 bodies was discovered near Izium after Kyiv forces arrived. locations in any liberated city.”

“We know that some (of the people buried in the well) were shot, some died from artillery fire, from so-called mine explosion trauma. Some died from air strikes. Also, we have information that many bodies have not yet been identified.” said Bolvinov.

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A view of unidentified graves of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers at a cemetery in the recently retaken area of ​​Izium, Ukraine, Thursday, September 15, 2022.

Evgeniy Maloletka / AP


Russian forces left Izium and other parts of the Kharkiv region last week amid an impressive Ukrainian counteroffensive. On Wednesday, Zelenskyy made a rare trip outside Ukraine’s capital to watch the national flag being raised in Izium City Hall.

Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Enin said on Thursday night that other evidence found after Kyiv’s advance into the Kharkiv region included several “torture chambers” where Ukrainian and foreign nationals were detained “in conditions completely inhumane”.

“We have already come across the exhumation of individual bodies, not only with traces of violent death, but also of torture – cut off ears etc. This is just the beginning,” Enin said in an interview with Ukraine’s NV Radio.

He said that among those detained at one of the locations were students from an unspecified Asian country who were captured at a Russian checkpoint as they tried to leave for Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Enin did not specify where the students were held, although he cited the small towns of Balakliya and Volchansk as two locations where the alleged torture chambers were found. His account could not be independently verified immediately.

“All these traces of war crimes are now carefully documented by us. And we know from Bucha’s experience that the worst crimes can only be exposed with time,” Enin said, referring to a Kyiv suburb where the bodies of hundreds of civilians were discovered following the withdrawal of the Russian army from the area in March.

Earlier on Thursday, Zelenskyy said that during the five months the Russians occupied the region, they “just destroyed, just deprived, just took away. They left behind devastated villages; in some of them there is not a single house intact. squatters turned schools into dumps and churches – torn apart, literally turned into toilets.”

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