Caution on video showing Russians burying soldiers in Izium

Caution on video showing Russians burying soldiers in Izium

As investigations into the graves and the mass grave began to Izioumin Ukraineafter the city was recaptured by Ukrainian troops, another story emerges about the social networks. The Russians allegedly simply buried the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers there. After weeks of fighting in March, the city, located in the northeast of the country, near Kharkiv, fell to the Russian army in early April.

This other account is based on a video, which appears to have been shot by Russian forces. It shows men in civilian clothes, armbands, carrying bodies out of a building and placing them in body bags. Another sequence shows more than a dozen bodies lying on a road, which are then carried by men in civilian clothes into a vehicle. The last plan is that of a pit in the forest, which seems to resemble the site of Izioum; the bodies are buried there.

A soldier, wearing a cap marked with the flag of the Russia, then explains that they “bury these bodies”, presented as “Ukrainian soldiers”, “in the cemetery of the city”. The “negotiations with the Ukrainian regime” would have “failed”, points out the soldier, and the Russian forces would therefore have taken care of burying them, according to a translation that we made via Google Translate.

Screenshots of viral tweets that broadcast the video.
Screenshots of viral tweets that broadcast the video. – Screenshots/Twitter

These remarks are those mentioned in the viral tweets which denounce “a fake mass grave”. “The Russians were even filmed at the time to show that they were taking care of the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers”, points out a surfer. Another explains that it is “neither more nor less than a cemetery where were buried Ukrainian soldiers (about 500 in total) killed during the fighting in Izium in March 2002”. “Western good thinking today wants us to believe that these unearthed corpses ‘showing signs of violent death’ (as generally any soldier who died in combat!) would be the victims of a mass war crime”, criticizes-t he again. What is it really ? 20 minutes make the point.


The video is difficult to authenticate. There is no remarkable building or elements that allow to date to identify with certainty the authors, the place or the date of recording. After research, the oldest occurrence of this video dates back to May 8, 2022. It was posted from the account Youtube from a Russian media from Nizhny Novgorod, Giport. On the site of this media, the video is accompanied by an article explaining that “Ukraine refuses to recover the bodies of dead soldiers, the Russians are forced to bury them in mass graves”. The location of this pit is not specified.

Belkis Wille, senior investigator in the crisis and conflict division of Human Rights Watch, was able to visit the Izioum site. After watching the video in question, she tells us that it “looks like the site”. But it is too early to draw conclusions.

If the scene takes place in Izium, the video shows, as described above, men burying soldiers. However, this does not erase the story of the discoveries made since September 15. In a forest on the outskirts of Izium, more than 400 graves, dating from March to September 2022, have been discovered, and at least 17 bodies of Ukrainian soldiers, buried in a mass grave, have been exhumed.

Investigations launched

The local authorities announced the figure of more than 440 graves, because the last number inscribed on the crosses is 445, noted AFP on the spot. These numbers are largely inscribed on crude wooden crosses. Investigations have been launched by a dozen Ukrainian teams of four people (a prosecutor, an investigator, two experts) since September 18.

“99%” of the exhumed bodies “showed signs of violent death,” said regional governor Oleg Synegoubov. Most “have injuries related to bombardments and explosions,” said Yevguen Sokolov, prosecutor from Kharkiv in charge of the investigation. And others have injuries resulting from sharp objects. Some bodies, with their hands tied, bore signs of abuse. the Kremlin described, on September 19, as “lies” the information on the discoveries at Izium.

“There are signs of torture”

At the same time, the NGO Human Rights Watch is carrying out its – independent – investigation on the spot. “The research has only just begun,” explains 20 minutes Belkis Wille. We have a lot of work and will have to meet many people to understand what happened. »

She says she has observed “the same types of violation” of human rights as in the areas occupied and then taken over by Ukrainian forces. “There are signs of torture, arbitrary detentions, murders,” she said. The investigator was able to discuss with people present on the Izioum site since the beginning of the exhumation: “They told us about exhumed bodies which showed signs of torture, such as a rope around the neck, hands tied. They told us which people were imprisoned at that time, she explains. We will need more research to better understand the signs that are seen on these bodies and eventually see what we can conclude. »

Research work begins

This work requires the collection of first-hand testimonies, that is to say direct victims or, if these people are deceased, direct witnesses.

“It’s about obtaining testimonies that corroborate others,” continues Belkis Wille. So that correspond to each other. The photos and videos of witnesses, whose metadata can be analyzed to validate the date and place, will be used, as well as the photos and videos posted online.

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