What is known about mass graves found in Izium, Ukraine | Ukraine and Russia

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Ukrainian investigators began their investigations on Friday (16), and this is what is known so far:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced last week the discovery of a “mass grave” after the liberation of the city of Izium. At the same site, more than 440 graves were also found dating back to between March and September 2022.

From one of them, investigators exhumed the bodies of at least 17 Ukrainian soldiers. A cross over the tomb bore the inscription: “Ukrainian army, 17 people. Izium Morgue.”

Authorities say there are more than 440 graves, because the last number inscribed on the crosses is 445, AFP learned.

The numbers are largely inscribed on wooden crosses. Some of them also have names and dates.

About 100 bodies have been exhumed since Sunday (18).

Tortured, or killed in combat?

Map shows the location of the city of Izium, Ukraine — Photo: g1

Ukrainian authorities suspect that some of the dead were tortured by Russian forces during the occupation of the northeastern region of Kharkiv. At least two of the corpses were found with their hands tied, AFP journalists noted.

One of them “had his hands tied, his jaw broken and two stab wounds in the back”, described a member of the Kharkiv Prosecutor’s Office, who asked not to be identified.

The remains were identified as those of a pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighter, the same official added.

The bodies of civilians killed during the March fighting for control of the city were also exhumed. Among them are three family members of Volodymir Kolesnik, killed in the bombing of their property on March 9. His aunt, cousin and cousin’s wife died and were taken to the cemetery, Kolesnik, a resident of Izium, told AFP.

What stage is the investigation at?

Forensic agents tend to bodies in a mass grave in the city of Izium, Ukraine.

A dozen teams of four (one prosecutor, one investigator, two experts) conducted investigations on Sunday. Rescuers dressed in white coveralls were in charge of the exhumations themselves.

Kharkiv prosecutor Yevgen Sokolov, who is leading the investigation, said he did not have an exact number of people who were said to have suffered violent deaths.

“We’ll do the math as soon as we finish the exhumations,” he said.

According to him, of the bodies exhumed so far, “most have injuries from bombings and explosions”, while others have “injuries from sharp objects and showed signs of violent death”.

Sokolov said one fighter had “his hands tied behind his back”, and another was found with “a rope around his neck and his extremities broken”.

He estimates it will take another week to exhume the remaining bodies, weather permitting.

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