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Russian troops withdrew completely from the Sumy region of north-eastern Ukraine earlier this month – now locals are assessing the death and destruction they left in their wake.
“Tragically, we find civilian bodies every day. Bodies showing signs of torture, with hands and feet tied, bodies beaten and bruised, bodies with fractures and fractures. After all, these people were usually shot in the head,” Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, the governor of the Sumy region, told POLITICO in a phone call.
Authorities have identified more than 120 civilians killed during the occupation.
Sumy was one of the first regions to be stormed when Russia launched its latest invasion of Ukraine on February 24. This attack stalled, and after weeks of heavy fighting, Russian forces withdrew to concentrate on the Donbass region to the south.
Last week, Zhyvytskyy announced that the “Orcs were gone” – the derogatory term Ukrainians adopted for Russian soldiers. He advises people not to come home until the area has been cleared of mines and booby traps left behind by the invaders.
“When the Russians were driven out of this area, they planted landmines everywhere. In Trostianets, for some reason, they even laid mines in the cemetery,” he said, referring to a town of 20,000 people just 40 kilometers from the Russian border, which was used as a base by the Russians.
“It’s not safe to go home. Landmines and unexploded shells are still being neutralized on our roads every day,” said Yuliia Klymenko, a 26-year-old from Trostianets.
Zhyvytskyy described the horrors of occupation in a war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin with the ostensible aim of liberating Ukraine from the Nazis.
“They would shoot people in the street,” Zhyvytskyy said. “In the beginning, it could be as little as holding a cell phone. Later they would shoot at anyone and everyone indiscriminately. Anyone who wanted to bury corpses was not allowed to do so. Bodies were either left on the street or neighbors carried them into their yards and gardens and buried them there.”
The governor, appointed in June, also said Russian troops were looting Ukrainian cities and stealing “everything they could” before leaving.
“Locals say that it was impossible to tell the difference between a tank and an APC [armored personnel carrier]because they were all littered with things — fridges, chairs and whatnot,” he said. “Pensioners, ladies in their 80s, had their blankets stolen, as well as ragged, worn out carpets that were 30 years old. They stole animals – sheep, cattle and so on. They stole roof panels. They attached these things to their vehicles and left.”
Meanwhile, Russian forces left the bodies of their own dead troops behind. “They couldn’t even get their own bodies back. Instead, they stole all sorts of junk. That says a lot about her character,” Zhyvytskyy said.
Although the Sumy Russians have retreated across the border, Zhyvytskyy fears they will come back if they manage to defeat the Ukrainian army in what is seen as a crucial battle in the Donbass region.
“This will not only be a fight for Donbass. It will be a struggle for the future of European civilization,” Zhyvytskyy said. “If we lose Ukraine, they will not stop. They will go ahead and threaten the rest of the world.”
The region needed “a new Mannerheim line,” Zhyvytskyy said, referring to the fortifications and bases Finland used with great success when it was attacked by the Soviet Union in 1939.
“On the border we need defense points, turrets, minefields and trenches. All this has to be state of the art, reliable. We also need an anti-aircraft system,” Zhyvytskyy said.
To do this, Ukraine needs much more help from the West, Zhyvytskyy said, echoing calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other politicians.
“The whole world is not doing enough. They don’t respond appropriately. With the sanctions, the decisions came too slowly. It’s so disappointing,” he said.
https://www.politico.eu/article/bodies-land-mines-destruction-ukraine-region-sumy-russia-occupation/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication A Ukrainian region digs up after Russian occupation – POLITICO