ERR in Izium: More mass graves, atrocities likely to be discovered

Excavation of mass grave containing the bodies of victims of the Russian occupation of the Izium region.
Excavation of mass grave containing the bodies of victims of the Russian occupation of the Izium region. Source: ERR

The governor of the Kharkiv region of Ukraine has called on civilians not to return yet to their homes in those areas which have been freed from occupation, stressing that it is not yet safe to do so, ERR reports, from the ground in Ukraine.

The city of Izium, around 130km to the southeast of Kharkiv, was the site of the grim discovery of mass graves, as reported by the international media a week ago.

Over 400 bodies have been exhumed so far, many of them displaying signs of torture and execution.

More suspected mass graves have been found in the area, though their location cannot be disclosed at this point in time.

Volodymyr Timoshko, chief of police of the Kharkiv region, told ERR's Astrid Kannel that: "These zones are heavily mined. Were we to announced right now where these places are, people would go to search for their relatives, journalists would go there to report, and they might just blow up. It is not safe."

Minefields are a danger in all liberated areas, Kharkiv Oblast governor Oleg Sonehubov told ERR.

He said: "I would like to say to those people who have left this region: I request they not return to the territories freed from occupation yet, because a large proportion of the areas are heavily mined, and we have to prepare these places before they can return."

While some volunteers and personnel are digging up graves, others are demolishing already-ruined buildings, with anything that can be salvaged being taken elsewhere.

Local resident Volodya attended a school which has now been hit. "I started first grade at this school in 1958 … In 1958, the school building's construction was finished and we immediately attended school... Our first classroom was on the second floor. Well, as you can see, there is no second floor now either."

Another local resident, Irina, saw her apartment block hit by Russian forces.

She said: "My apartment wasn't destroyed The three-room apartments in my stairwell didn't burn down, and the neighboring stairwell didn't either. After the attack, I want us to have normal human living conditions, to have electricity, to have water, to have a normal phone connection, so that I can talk to my children."

Meanwhile, Tanja said of the liberators that: "We are glad that the Ukrainian army came. Even if we live without electricity, gas or water, we are now free and democratic."

Vadim noted that any pro-Russian local residents who had lived in Izium before the occupation and attacks had either left or changed their minds. "People already have such a mood; before, the relationship had been half-and-half, but now everyone is already against Putin, against the whole thing."

The proximity of the front line, however, cannot be avoided, as artillery fire continues to sound in the distance.

An area north of Kharkiv, also now liberated all the way to the Ukraine-Russia border, had seen similar atrocities, with the occupiers being branded as thieves, and promises of retribution on collaborators, in line with Ukrainian laws, being heard.

CNN recently reported more mass graves having been exhumed in the Izium area, again with bodies exhibiting signs of torture and execution.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

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