IZYUM: Ukraine said Friday it had counted some 450 graves at a site near Izyum after recapturing the strategic eastern city from the Russians, a discovery that Kyiv likened to atrocities seen in Bucha and Mariupol, report agencies.
On Thursday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukrainian authorities found a mass burial site near a recaptured northeastern city previously occupied by Russian forces.
After recovering swathes of territory in a lightning counter-offensive in the east, the Ukrainian authorities also said they had discovered at least 10 "torture centres" around the Kharkiv region. Police chief Igor Klymenko said two of the sites were found in northeastern Balakliya.
Ukrainian officials said some 450 graves had been counted at a single site near Izyum.
"This is just one of the mass burial sites discovered near Izyum. In the occupied territories, rampant terror, violence, torture and mass murders have been reigning for months," senior presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said.
The United Nations in Geneva said it wanted to send a team to determine the circumstances of the deaths. At a location near Izyum, AFP journalists saw graves topped with crosses and marked with numbers, with one inscription reading: "Ukrainian army, 17 people. Izyum morgue."
A regional police official, Sergei Botvinov, told Sky News that an Izyum burial site held corpses that included people killed by shooting or in shelling.
Dozens of civilians bearing signs of extrajudicial killings were found in places like Bucha, outside Kyiv, after they were recaptured by Ukraine's forces earlier this year.
Investigators with metal detectors were scanning the site for any hidden explosives. Oleg Kotenko, an official with the Ukrainian ministry tasked with reintegrating occupied territories, said videos that Russian soldiers posted on social media indicated there were likely more than 17 bodies in the grave.
“We haven’t counted them yet, but I think there are more than 25 or even 30,” he said.
Zelensky invoked the names of other Ukrainian cities where authorities said retreating 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 accountable for it. The world must bring Russia to real responsibility for this war,” he said in the address.
Russian forces left Izium and other parts of the Kharkiv region last week amid a stunning Ukrainian counteroffensive. On Wednesday, Zelensky made a rare trip outside the capital to watch the national flag being raised over Izium’s city hall.
Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Enin said Thursday night that other evidence found after Kyiv’s sweeping advance into the Kharkiv region included multiple “torture chambers” where both Ukrainian citizens and foreigners were detained “in completely inhuman conditions.”
“We have already come across the exhumation of individual bodies, not only with traces of a violent death, but also of torture — cut off ears, etc. This is just the beginning,” Enin said in an interview with Ukraine’s Radio NV.
He claimed that among those held at one of the sites 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 named the small cities of Balakliya and Volchansk as two locations where torture chambers were found. His account could not be independently verified.