War in Ukraine. What we know about the macabre discoveries in the Izioum region

War in Ukraine.  What we know about the macabre discoveries in the Izioum region

The horror of war. After the reconquest of several territories in the northeast of the country and the withdrawal of the Russian army, Ukrainian forces have made grisly discoveriessome of which have been observed by journalists from theAFP. We take stock.

Zelensky speaks of a “mass grave” in Izium

Thursday evening September 15, Volodymyr Zelensky announces only one pauper’s grave ​has been unearthed at Iziouma strategic city of 50,000 inhabitants before the war recently reconquered by Ukraine.

Tomorrow (Friday) Ukrainian and international journalists will come to Izium. We want the world to know what is really happening and what the Russian occupation has led to. Boucha, Mariupol, now, unfortunately, Izium…​, continues the Ukrainian president without further details.

Since the start of the war, Russian forces have been accused of numerous abuses in areas under their control and especially in Boutcha, in the suburbs of kyiv, where bodies of coldly executed civilians were discovered after their withdrawal at the end of March. Moscow denies having committed these atrocities.

Journalists discover hundreds of graves

On Friday, journalists from theAFP observe on the spot hundreds of tombs in a forest on the outskirts of Izioum. According to local authorities, a total of 443 graves have been discovered at this site.

Oleg Kotenko, government official for the search for missing persons, said the graves were dug during the fighting when the city was captured by Russian forces in March and during the Russian occupation, which ended last week. Some graves could contain several bodies.

There’s a family buried there, with a young child. They were killed, there are witnesses from the same building, they saw what happened and buried these people here​, says Oleg Kotenko again. According to him, the graves that do not bear names are those of people (found) in the street​.

At least one body with its hands tied has been exhumed. It was impossible to establish immediately whether it was a civilian or a soldier, the body being very damaged, according to the journalist of theAFP.

A mass grave where several soldiers are buried was also discovered. We think there are 16 or 17 bodies. We will exhume them now for an autopsy in Kharkiv where DNA tests will be carried out​, says the government official.

“Torture rooms” in the Kharkiv region

Ukrainian police chief Igor Klymenko told him of the discovery of ten torture rooms in localities recaptured from the Russians in the Kharkiv region. Six of them are located in Izioum and two in the town of Balakliïa.

The UN wants to send a team

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights immediately indicated that it wanted to send soon a team in Izioum.

Our colleagues in Ukraine, from the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, are verifying these allegations and they aim to organize a visit to Izium to determine the circumstances of the death of these people found in this city, said Elizabeth Throssell, spokesperson for the High Commission, during the regular UN briefing in Geneva.

When mass graves are discovered, it is important, explained the spokeswoman, to check whether they were soldiers or civilians, whether they were killed or died in the fighting or natural causes exacerbated by lack of medical care.

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