Bodies with their hands tied were found at a mass burial site in Izium after Ukrainian forces recaptured the city in northeastern Ukraine, the regional governor said on Friday (September 16).
“We are at the site of the mass burial of people, civilians who were buried here, and now according to our information they all have the signs of violent death,” the governor, Oleg Synegubov, said at the site.
“There are bodies with hands tied behind. Each fact will be investigated and will be properly and legally evaluated,” he said.
Earlier, Ukrainian officials said they had found 440 bodies in woodlands near the city of Izium. They said most of the dead were civilians, and that the site proved war crimes had been committed by Russian invaders who occupied the area for months.
Men in white overalls were digging out bodies in the wooded area where around 200 makeshift wooden crosses were scattered among trees. Some 20 white body bags could be seen.
Porgrammer Serhii Shtanko, a 33-year-old Izium resident, said he came to the mass grave hoping to find the grave in which he thinks a neighbour and his family of seven are buried.
“We retrieved our neighbour, together with another neighbour. He (dead neighbour) wasn’t exactly in the basement, but in an electric panel room. We dragged him out through gates, and all of his family, seven people in total, are most likely buried here.”
Oleksandr Ilienkov, the chief of the prosecutor’s office for the Kharkiv region, told Reuters at the site: “One of the bodies (found) has evidence of a ligature pattern and a rope around the neck, tied hands.”
“As for the others, according to preliminary information, there are signs of violent death causes. But in order to establish facts and circumstances, the bodies are (being) sent for forensic expertise for a more detailed investigation.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday many Ukrainians were buried at various sites in the newly-recaptured northeast including whole families and people who were tortured, likening the aftermath to Russia’s withdrawal from near Kyiv months ago.
In an interview at his presidential office, he told Reuters an investigation was underway with international assistance and that there was evidence of Russian war crimes in those areas.