Mass graves found in Izium
Kyiv – Ukrainian authorities found a mass grave containing 440 bodies in the northeastern town of Izium that was recaptured from Russian forces days ago, officials said, including some people killed by shelling and air strikes.
Thousands of Russian troops fled Izium last weekend after occupying the city and using it as a logistics hub in the Kharkiv region. They left behind large amounts of ammunition and equipment.
“Mass graves are being discovered in Izium after liberation from the (Russians)”, with the largest burial site holding 440 unmarked graves, the Ukrainian defence ministry tweeted.
Serhiy Bolvinov, the chief police investigator for Kharkiv region, told Sky News: “Some died because of artillery fire … some died because of air strikes.”
Reuters could not immediately verify the Ukrainian reports and there was no immediate comment from Russia.
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who visited Izium on Wednesday, compared the discovery to alleged war crimes by Russian forces against civilians in Bucha, on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, in the early stages of war.
“Russia is leaving death behind it everywhere and must be held responsible,” Zelenskiy said in a video address late on Thursday.
Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes.
After a week of rapid Ukrainian gains in the northeast, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces were fortifying defences and it will be hard to maintain the pace of the advance.
Russia president Vladimir Putin has yet to comment publicly on the setback suffered by his forces this month.
Ukrainian officials say 9 000 square kilometres (3 400 square miles) have been retaken, territory about the size of the island of Cyprus.
Reuters video from the eastern town of Kupiansk, a key supply hub which Ukrainian forces recaptured last week, showed many buildings had been damaged or burned out.
The speed of the advance has bolstered Ukrainian morale and given it some success to show its Western allies as it seeks more weapons to sustain its defence.