Izium mass graves

Mass graves found near Izium during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Izium mass graves
Part of
War crimes in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
Battle of Izium
2022 Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive
Cemetery in Izium made during Russian occupation (07).jpg
Exhumation of the bodies, 16 September 2022
LocationIzium, Kharkiv Oblast
Attack type
War crimes, including torture and execution
VictimsAt least 440 people
Perpetrators Russian Ground Forces
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Northeastern Ukraine campaign

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Southern Ukrainian counteroffensive

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Spillover and cross-border incidents
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Possibly related

On 15 September 2022, several mass graves, including one site containing at least 440 bodies were found in woods near the Ukrainian city of Izium after it was recaptured by Ukrainian forces during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1][2] The graves contained bodies of people who were killed by Russian forces.[3][4][5] The Ukrainian government believes that over 1,000 people were killed during the battle for and subsequent Russian occupation of Izium.[6][7]

According to Ukrainian investigators, 447 bodies were discovered in one of the sites including 414 bodies of civilians (215 men, 194 women, 5 children) and 22 servicemen. Most of the dead showed signs of violent death and 30 presented traces of torture and summary execution, including ropes around their necks, bound hands, broken limbs and genital amputation;[8] others might have died from shelling and a lack of access to healthcare.[9]

On 26 September, President Zelenskyy said that two more mass graves had been found "with hundreds of people".[10]

Background

Izium is located in Ukraine
Izium
Izium
class=notpageimage|
Izium, Kharkiv oblast

After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February 2022, the battle for control of the town of Izium began in March 2022, due to the town's importance as a transportation node. The Russian military wanted to capture Izium so its forces in the Kharkiv Oblast could link up with their troops in the Donbas region.[11] On 1 April, the Ukrainian military confirmed Izium was under Russian control.[12]

Following the launch of the Ukrainian southern counteroffensive in Kherson in late August, Ukrainian forces began a simultaneous counteroffensive in early September in Kharkiv Oblast, in the northeast of the country. Following an unexpected thrust deep into Russian lines, Ukraine recovered many hundreds of square kilometers of territory by 9 September.[13] On 10 September 2022 Ukrainian forces recaptured the town during the 2022 Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive.[14][15]

Reports

Cemetery in Izium made during Russian occupation

On 15 September 2022, after Russian forces were driven out of the city in the Kharkiv counteroffensive, a large number of mostly unmarked graves was found in the woods close to Izium.[16] Amid the trees were hundreds of graves with simple wooden crosses, most of them marked only with numbers, whilst one of the larger graves bore a marker saying it contained the bodies of at least 17 Ukrainian soldiers.[16] By 16 September, investigators had discovered more than 445 graves of both civilians and soldiers, with some of the identification and location of the sites helped by Tamara Volodymyrovna, the head of the local funeral home. Volodymyrovna had been instructed by occupying forces to only indicate the graves with numbers and record both the number and individuals names in a journal.[17]

Local firefighters were enlisted to help recover the human remains at the site, with one stating that after they unearth the body a moment of silence is held before the remains are quickly investigated for identifying characteristics or items. They are then placed in a bag and transported to a morgue for more detailed forensics.[18]

A minority of the casualties were caused by artillery fire[19] and from lack of healthcare.[20] According to the authorities some of the bodies had their hands tied behind their back and showed signs of torture.[21] Oleh Synyehubov, governor of Kharkiv region said:

"Among the bodies that were exhumed today, 99 per cent showed signs of violent death. There are several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and one person is buried with a rope around his neck. Obviously, these people were tortured and executed. There are also children among the buried."[22]

Residents who survived the occupation stated that the Russians targeted specific individuals and that they already had lists of those locals who were in the military, the families of military people, or the people who were veterans of the War in Donbas (2014-2022).[23] They also said that in selecting victims they would terrorize the townspeople by publicly strip searching them.[24] Volodymyrovna, claimed that she had been allowed to bury territorial defense members and some soldiers, but the majority of Ukrainian soldier casualties she was not allowed to bury and did not know where the bodies were located.[17]

Investigation

Cemetery in Izium investigation after Russian occupation

The United Nations responded by stating they plan to send monitors to Izium.[25][26]

According to Ukrainian investigators, 447 bodies were discovered: 414 bodies of civilians (215 men, 194 women, 5 children), 22 servicemen, and 11 bodies whose gender had not yet been determined as of 23 September. Most of the dead showed signs of violent death and 30 presented traces of torture and summary execution, including ropes around their necks, bound hands, broken limbs and genital amputation.[27]

Reactions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy likened the discovery to the Bucha massacre as officials began forensic investigations.[21] Individuals working the scene have been overcome with the process and emotions, with one telling reporters he believes they will need mental health help in the future as the work will stay with them forever.[18]

Russia responded with a mass disinformation campaign on social media aimed at discrediting the findings as a "Western fabrication", or claiming that the killed civilians were actually Ukrainian soldiers.[28] When asked by reporters about Zelenskyy's claims, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed both the Izium and Bucha massacres are "lies".[29]

The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an official statement "condemned the massacre", and called for respect for international humanitarian law and the investigation of the crimes committed.[30] French president Emmanuel Macron condemned Izium atrocities committed under Russian occupation.[31] John Kirby, of the White House National Security Council, said that "unfortunately, this matches the deprivation and brutality that the Russian Armed Forces are leading the war against Ukraine and the Ukrainian nation."[32]

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski traveled from Zaporizhzhia where he had been delivering humanitarian aid, to join Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk of the Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia Diocese to offer prayers for the deceased and the workers.[33]

References

  1. ^ Lamb, William (15 September 2022). "A mass grave site with 440 bodies was found in Izium, a police official said". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Mass grave of more than 440 bodies found in Izium, Ukraine, police say". Reuters. 15 September 2022. Archived from the original on 15 September 2022.
  3. ^ Luke Harding (17 September 2022). "Izium: after Russian retreat, horrors of Russian occupation are revealed". The Guardian. Izium. Archived from the original on 17 September 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  4. ^ Koshiw, Isobel; Lorenzo, Tondo (16 September 2022). "'Some hanged themselves': the work to find answers amid Izium's mass grave". The Guardian. Izium. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022.
  5. ^ Julia Skoryk (19 September 2022). ""Przebaczyć? Nigdy! To jest nasz wielki, palący ból". Pomordowanych w Iziumie mogą być tysiące" ["Forgive? Never! This our great, burning pain". There may be thousands of murdered people in Izium.]. ukrayina.pl (in Polish and Ukrainian). Lviv: gazeta.pl. Archived from the original on 19 September 2022. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  6. ^ Orlova, Alisa (13 September 2022). "Over 1,000 Civilians Killed During Russian Occupation of Izyum - Kyiv Post - Ukraine's Global Voice". Kyiv Post. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  7. ^ "More than 1,000 civilians have died in Izium and 80% of infrastructure is destroyed – city councillor". Ukrainska Pravda. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  8. ^ "В Ізюмі закінчили ексгумацію – підняли 447 тіл, серед них багато жінок, є діти". Українська правда (in Ukrainian). 23 September 2022. Archived from the original on 27 September 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  9. ^ "Ukraine says mass burial sites found in retaken town of Lyman". BBC News. 8 October 2022. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  10. ^ Rai, Arpan; James, Liam (26 September 2022). "New mass graves found in Izyum after Russian troops flee – Ukraine live". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 September 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  11. ^ "FIRST ON CNN: Major infrastructure in central Izyum is destroyed, new satellite images show". CNN. 25 March 2022. Archived from the original on 29 March 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  12. ^ "На Київщині ЗСУ звільнили 15 населених пунктів – зведення Генерального штабу". Радіо Свобода. Archived from the original on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  13. ^ Njoka, Eric (9 August 2022). "Moscow sends reinforcement to Kharkiv as Ukraine claims taking several towns and villages from Russia. Is the Russian front crumbling near Kharkiv?". WIO News. Archived from the original on 10 September 2022. Retrieved 9 August 2022.
  14. ^ Santora, Marc; Lukinova, Anna (10 September 2022). "Ukrainian Forces Take Key City, Igniting New Phase in War". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 September 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  15. ^ "Ukraine war: Zelenskyy raises flag in recently recaptured Izium". Euronews. 15 September 2022. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  16. ^ a b Maloletka, Evgeniy (16 September 2022). "Ukraine's president says a new mass grave is found near a recaptured city". NPR. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  17. ^ a b Koshiw, Isobel; Tondo, Lorenzo (16 September 2022). "'We don't know where the rest of the bodies went': the search for answers in Izium". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  18. ^ a b Chaze, Emmanuelle (18 September 2022). "Ukraine war: Izium bodies show signs of torture and execution". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  19. ^ "Mass Grave Found in Ukraine Town Retaken from Russia: Zelensky". Kyiv Post. 16 September 2022. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  20. ^ Bachega, Hugo; Murphy, Matt (16 September 2022). "Ukraine war: Hundreds of graves found in liberated Izyum city - officials". BBC News. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  21. ^ a b Harding, Luke (16 September 2022). "Ukraine says victims from Izium mass grave show signs of torture". The Guardian. Kyiv. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  22. ^ "Mass grave found in retaken Ukrainian city of Izyum". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 18 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  23. ^ Tondo, Lorenzo; Koshiw, Isobel (14 September 2022). "'People disappeared': Izium's residents on Russia's occupation". The Guardian. Izium. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  24. ^ Tomasz Gdaniec (17 September 2022). "Rosjanie rozbierali Ukraińców na ulicach. Wiadomo, czego szukali" [The Russians were stripping Ukrainians on the streets. It's known what they were looking for] (in Polish). onet.pl. Archived from the original on 18 September 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  25. ^ Child, David (16 September 2022). "UN to probe Izyum mass grave reports". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 16 September 2022. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  26. ^ "Ukraine: UN rights office set to probe 'mass graves' in newly liberated east". UN News. 16 September 2022. Archived from the original on 18 September 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  27. ^ "В Ізюмі закінчили ексгумацію – підняли 447 тіл, серед них багато жінок, є діти". Українська правда (in Ukrainian). Archived from the original on 27 September 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  28. ^ PAP (19 September 2022), Tak Rosja kłamie o zbrodniach w Iziumie. Oto przykłady. [This is how Russia lies about the crimes in Izium. Here are examples.] (in Polish), onet.pl, archived from the original on 19 September 2022, retrieved 19 September 2022
  29. ^ "Kremlin says Ukrainian war crimes claims are a lie". Reuters. 19 September 2022. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  30. ^ "Condena a la masacre de la fosa común de Izium" [Condemnation of the massacre at the mass graves at Izium]. Ministerio de Asuntos exteriores, Unión Europea y Cooperación (in Spanish). 17 September 2022. Archived from the original on 18 September 2022. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  31. ^ Fang, Xing (17 September 2022). "Macron condemns 'atrocities' in Izyum, Ukraine". Macau Business. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  32. ^ Mateusz Czmiel (17 September 2022). "Biały Dom reaguje na apel Zełenskiego. "Przerażające"" [The White House reacts to Zelenskyy's appeal. "Shocking"] (in Polish). Wirtualna Polska. Archived from the original on 17 September 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  33. ^ Capelli, Benedetta; Bordoni, Linda (20 September 2022). "Cardinal Krajewski prays before mass graves in Izium - Vatican News". vaticannews.va. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
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