Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of genocide after discovering a mass grave allegedly containing 440 bodies near Isyum, a city recently recaptured by Russian forces.
The president of Ukraine said there was evidence of torture of the victims. He said some were found with broken limbs and cords around their necks, and that the burial site had the bodies of civilians and military personnel.
“Children and adults. Civilians and military. Tortured, shot, killed by fire, ”said Zelenskiy. “Even whole families are buried there: mother, father and daughter.”
Over 400 graves were found on the site.
Zelenskiy, who visited the area around Isyum on Wednesday, said the findings again point to the need for world leaders to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. He confirmed the gloomy discovery on Thursday night and said “the necessary procedures have already begun there.”
“The Russian army has been in the Kharkiv region for over five months. And at that time, the occupiers did not even try to do anything for the people, ”Zelenski said. “They only destroyed, only deprived, only took. They left devastated villages, and in some there is not a single undamaged home. Russia cannot bring anything but genocide. “
On the site in the eastern city of Izium were also the bodies of people who had been killed by gunfire and air strikes, regional police officer Serhiy Bolwinov said.
Bolvinov, the chief police investigator in the Kharkiv region, told Sky News that forensic investigations will be carried out on all bodies. On Friday, it was reported that about 200 wooden crosses had been discovered near the city. There was at least one mass grave with a plate with the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers on it.
On Friday, the head of the Ukrainian police said that most of the people buried in the mass grave are civilians. Asked if there were mainly civilians or soldiers in the area of Izyum, police chief Ihor Klymenko said at a press conference: “According to preliminary estimates, civilians. Although we have information that there are soldiers there too, we haven’t recovered a single one yet. ‘ He added that the exhumations were underway.
A local resident, Sergei Gorodko, said that among the hundreds of those buried in single graves, there were dozens of adults and children killed in a Russian raid on an apartment building. He said he had pulled some of them out of the rubble with his “own hands”.
UN Human Rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said at a press briefing in Geneva that the organization planned to send observers to the city to “try to figure out a little more about what might have happened,” although she failed to do so.
Zelenskiy blamed Russia and likened the discovery to what happened in Bucza, on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital Kiev, during the early stages of the invasion of Russian forces.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russian forces of committing war crimes there.
“Bucha, Mariupol … now, unfortunately, Izyum. Russia leaves death everywhere. And he must be held accountable for it. The world must bring Russia to real responsibility for this war, ”Zelenskiy said.
Russian forces left Izium and other parts of the Kharkiv region last week during a stunning Ukrainian counteroffensive.
On Wednesday, Zelenskiy made a rare trip from the Ukrainian capital to watch the national flag being raised at the Izyum town hall.
Russia has not yet commented on the allegations about the mass grave in Izyum. She has repeatedly denied having attacked civilians or committed war crimes. However, unrepentant Vladimir Putin warned that the war could become “more serious” for Ukraine, despite the smaller state’s recent successes.
Speaking after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Putin said that Moscow was in no rush with Ukraine and that its goals remained unchanged.
“The Kiev authorities have announced that they have started and are conducting an active counter-offensive operation. Well, let’s see how it unfolds, how it ends, ”Putin said with a smile.
“The Russian armed forces have dealt some gentle blows recently. Suppose this is a warning. If the situation continues to develop, the reaction will be more serious, he said.
Additional agency reports