440 bodies have been found in unmarked graves in Izium, the Ukrainian government says


Earlier Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian and international journalists would be shown the site to see what was found. “We want the world to know what is really happening and what the Russian occupation has brought,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications said on Thursday that some of the graves found in Izium were “fresh”, and that the bodies buried there were “mostly civilians”.

Izium was heavily bombarded by Russian artillery in April, and the city, which is near the border between Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, became an important hub for the invading military during the five months of the occupation.

Ukrainian forces regained control of the city on Saturday, dealing a strategic blow to Russia’s military offensive.

Photos released by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Friday showed numerous crosses on mounds in a wooded area near Izium, as well as a larger grave dug into the forest floor.

'We prayed for release': Inside a city reclaimed by Ukraine after months of Russian occupation

Zelensky said in a speech on Thursday that Russia should be held responsible for the deaths there, and scores of bodies were found in other cities.

“Bucha, Mariupol and now, unfortunately, Izium… Russia leaves death everywhere. And it must be responsible for that. The world must hold Russia to the real responsibility of this war. We will do everything for this,” he added.

Serhii Bolvinov, the chief investigator of the Kharkiv regional police, earlier told Britain’s Sky News that there may be other mass burials in the Kharkiv area.

Speaking specifically about the 440 graves, Bolvinov told Sky News that those exhumed so far showed that the victims died of various causes.

“We know that some were killed (shot dead), others were killed by artillery fire, so-called blast trauma. Some were killed by airstrikes. We also have information that many bodies have not yet been identified. So the reasons. The death will be established in the investigations.” , said Sky News Bolvinov.

On the other hand, Oleh Kotenko, Ukraine’s Commissioner for Missing Persons, said in a Telegram post that operations to search for the remains of “fallen heroes” were being carried out with caution across the region.

“The biggest problem is that some areas are still exploited. However, we continue to work, because we need to bring every hero home, so that families can honor the memory of soldiers who died for Ukraine with dignity. possible,” said Kotenko.

Ukrainian prosecutors have identified the Russian soldier suspected of shooting civilians since the CNN report

Zelensky visited Izium on Wednesday and told reporters he was “surprised” by the number of “destroyed buildings” and “dead people” left by the Russian occupation.

Moscow was using Izium as a launch pad for attacks in the Donetsk region and south of Kupyansk, about 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Izium, and as a rail hub to supply its forces.

Zelensky also thanked foreign governments for sending investigators and prosecutors to investigate alleged human rights violations by the occupying forces in Ukraine, adding that all occupied territories would eventually be returned.

Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a sustained military offensive, particularly in the northeastern and southern regions of the country.

Zelensky said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had liberated 8,000 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) of territory this month, with roughly half of the area undergoing “stabilization” measures.