UKRAINIAN officials said yesterday they had found hundreds of bodies, some with their hands tied behind their backs, buried in territory retaken by Russian forces, which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called evidence of war crimes by the invaders.
r Zelensky said many bodies had also been found elsewhere in the Northeast, and he appealed to foreign powers to step up supplies of arms, saying the outcome of the war depended on their prompt delivery.
“As of today there are 450 dead, buried. But there are other, separate burials of many people. tortured people. Entire families in certain areas,” Zelenskyy said in his presidential office yesterday.
The head of the pro-Russian government, which abandoned the area last week, accused Ukrainians of orchestrating the atrocities in the city of Izium, in the Kharkiv region. “I haven’t heard anything about burials,” Vitaly Ganchev told state TV Rossiya-24.
Outside the city, officers wearing masks and hazmat suits yesterday excavated bodies in a forest at the site where around 200 makeshift wooden crosses were scattered among trees.
“We are at the site of mass burial of people, civilians, who were buried here, and now, according to our information, they have all the signs of a violent death,” said Kharkiv governor Oleh Synehubov.
“There are bodies with their hands tied behind their backs. Every fact will be investigated and properly and legally assessed.”
Officials laid out the exhumed bodies in white body bags. Some were wrapped in rags. One was in military gear.
In a separate video address to Izium, Zelensky said authorities found a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 soldiers, some with obvious signs of torture.
If the body count is confirmed, the site at Izium, a former Russian frontline stronghold, would be the largest mass burial found in Europe since the aftermath of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he heard the reports. “This is appallingly part of a… ongoing story,” he said. “Whenever we see the Russian flood leaving the parts of Ukraine it occupies, we see what’s left of it.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not immediately respond to the allegations, but dismissed Ukraine’s lightning counteroffensive and warned that Moscow would respond more vigorously if its troops were further pressured.
Following a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan, Putin called the invasion a necessary step to prevent what he called a Western conspiracy to crush Russia.
“The Kiev authorities announced that they have launched and are carrying out an active counteroffensive. Well, let’s see how it develops, how it ends,” Putin said with a grin.
Russia regularly denies targeting civilians during its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine and has said in the past that allegations of human rights abuses are a smear campaign.
Small units of Ukrainian troops secured a nearly deserted ghost town in Kupyansk, a northeastern railroad junction town whose partial capture by Kiev’s forces on Saturday cut Russia’s supply lines and prompted a rapid collapse at the front.
A police station formerly occupied by Russians had been hastily abandoned. Russian flags and a portrait of Putin lay on the floor among broken glass. Records had been set on fire. Behind the steel doors of the station’s prison cells, there was blood on the floor and stains on the mattresses.
After a week of rapid gains in the Northeast, Ukrainian officials have tried to dampen expectations that they could continue to advance at this pace. They say Russian troops who fled the Kharkiv region are now dug in and plan to defend territory in neighboring Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.
“It is of course extremely encouraging to see that Ukrainian forces have been able to retake territory and also strike behind Russian lines,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“At the same time, we must understand that this is not the beginning of the end of the war. We have to be prepared for the long haul.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/hundreds-of-bodies-are-proof-of-russian-war-crimes-zelensky-41995708.html Hundreds of bodies are evidence of Russian war crimes – Zelenskyy