KYIV/KUPIANSK, Ukraine, September 16 – Ukrainian officials said they had found a mass burial site with 440 bodies, mostly civilians, in a northeastern town recaptured from Russian forces, calling it evidence of war crimes committed by the Russians. invaders into territory they had occupied for months.
“Russia is leaving death behind everywhere and must be held accountable,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight video speech.
The site in the former Russian frontline stronghold of Izium would be the largest mass burial found in Europe since the aftermath of the Balkan wars in the 1990s. Ukrainian forces retook Izium after thousands of Russian soldiers fled the area, abandoning weapons and ammunition.
Ukrainian police chief Ihor Klymenko told a news conference that all bodies recovered so far at the site appeared to be civilians, although there were reports that some soldiers could have been buried there as well.
“For months, unbridled terror, violence, torture and mass killings have been raging in the Occupied Territories,” Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted in English, above photos of a forest littered with wooden crosses on fresh muddy ground. A huge pit was sealed with red and white tape from the crime scene.
“Does anyone else want to ‘freeze the war’ instead of sending in tanks? We have no right to leave people alone with Evil.”
Russia did not immediately comment on reports of the mass burial site. In the past, he denied that his troops committed atrocities in the conflict. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor.
In Kupiansk, a town at the northeast railroad junction whose partial capture by Kyiv forces on Saturday cut off Russian supply lines and led to the rapid collapse of the front, small units of Ukrainian troops were protecting an almost deserted ghost town.
blood on the floor
A police station formerly occupied by the Russians was hastily abandoned in Kupiansk, about 37 miles north of Izium.
Russian flags and a portrait of President Vladimir Putin lay on the station floor amid shards of glass. The records were set on fire. Behind the steel doors of the police cells there was blood on the floor and stains on the mattresses.
Three piglets on the loose from an abandoned pen were foraging on the city street. Serhiy, a middle-aged man in a thin jacket, was hungry for news.
“There is no electricity, no telephones. If there was electricity, at least we could have watched TV. If there were phones, we could have called our relatives,” he said. “If only there hadn’t been all this bombing with everyone in their basements.”
After a week of rapid gains in the northeast, Ukrainian officials tried to dampen expectations that they could continue to advance at this pace. They say Russian troops who fled the Kharkiv region are now digging and planning to defend territories in neighboring Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.
“Of course it is extremely encouraging to see that the Ukrainian armed forces have managed to retake territory and also attack behind Russian lines,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told BBC Radio.
“At the same time, we need to understand that this is not the beginning of the end of the war. We need to be prepared for the long term.”
Putin has yet to publicly comment on the setback suffered by his forces on the battlefield this month. Ukrainian officials say 3,400 square miles have been retaken, roughly the size of the island of Cyprus.
Ukraine has also launched a major offensive to recapture territory in the south, where it plans to arrest thousands of Russian troops cut off from supplies on the west bank of the Dnipro River, and retake Kherson, the only major city Russia has captured intact since the start of the war.
Russian state news agency RIA released a video showing smoke rising from the Russian-occupied Kherson administration building after apparent Ukrainian rocket attacks.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the region based in Russia, told Russian state TV that a wing of the building had been virtually destroyed, and there were dead and wounded, although it was too early to say how many. Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment.
In the east, the chief prosecutor of the pro-Russian separatist administration in Luhansk was killed by an explosion in his office, along with his deputy, according to Russian news agencies. Russia has also reported border attacks in its Belgorod region.
The war and sanctions on Russia have caused energy prices to rise, especially in Europe, which is dependent on Russian oil and gas. Germany announced on Friday that a regulator was seizing the German arm of Russian oil company Rosneft, including a giant refinery that supplies most of the fuel to the capital Berlin.
The Schwedt refinery relies on oil pumped from Russia through the “Amizade” pipeline to former communist Eastern Europe. German officials said they hoped the country would no longer receive Russian oil.
The speed of Ukraine’s advance boosted its morale and bolstered its case for more weapons from Western allies.
In Washington, US President Joe Biden announced a new $600 million weapons package for Ukraine, including high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and artillery rounds. The United States has sent about $15.1 billion in security assistance to Kyiv since the February 24 invasion of Russia.
Source : nypost.com