‘This is only the beginning’

'This is only the beginning'
    Two people in charge of forensic medicine carry a body bag in a forest on the outskirts of Izhum.  AFP photo

Two people in charge of forensic medicine carry a body bag in a forest on the outskirts of Izhum.AFP photo

“Pocha, Mariupol and now, alas, Izium,” said President Volodymyr Zelensky, announcing the shocking discovery. “Russia leaves death everywhere.” Zelensky, who visited the city in Kharkiv province on Wednesday, said Moscow should be held accountable. The United Nations Human Rights Council is sending investigators to the region.

Pictures and photographs of the mass grave show many wooden crosses between the trees, most of which are unnamed. In one place are indicated the burial of seventeen Ukrainian soldiers. According to a prominent police investigator in the region, Sergei Polvinov, preliminary excavations revealed that civilians who were shot dead were among the victims.

Moreover, according to the Public Prosecution Office, traces of torture were found. “Some of them were killed by artillery fire and air strikes,” Polvinov told Britain’s Sky News of the other victims. Most of the dead have not yet been identified.

Izyum was liberated last week during the major offensive of the Ukrainian army in the Kharkiv region. The strategic city came under heavy Russian artillery bombardment in April. After the Russian takeover, Izyum was used as an important supply center for the occupation army’s operations in eastern Ukraine. According to a resident, the mass grave also contains dozens of victims, including children, as a result of a Russian air strike that hit an apartment. The resident says he helped recover the dead.

torture chamber

The Ukrainian authorities fear the emergence of more serious human rights violations in the 9,000 square kilometer area that has so far been retaken from the Russians near Kharkiv. For example, the Ukrainian military released a photo of what could have been a Russian torture chamber in the city of Balaklia. On the wall is a prayer written by prisoners.

According to the Minister of State for Internal Affairs Yevvin Inin, several such torture chambers were found. According to the minister, students from an Asian country were also detained by Russian soldiers at one of the sites. He didn’t say which country they came from. Examination of many of the bodies would have shown that the victims had died a violent death. “There were also traces of torture, especially wounds on the ears,” Enin told a Ukrainian radio station. “This is only the beginning.”

keep attacking

The Ukrainian army advanced further in recent days, including southwest of Izyum and near the city of Lyman, another major target of Kiev. The Russian army is consolidating its positions in Lyman to prevent an invasion by Ukrainian units here as well. Russian sources admitted that the Ukrainian army made further territorial gains between Izyum and Lyman.

Heavy fighting will also take place south of Lyman, in the Donetsk province. If the Ukrainian offensive is not reversed, Russia’s positions in Donbass are in jeopardy in the coming months. “Russian forces in eastern Ukraine will likely struggle to maintain their defenses if Ukrainian units continue to move east,” said the US Military Institute for the Study of War, which is monitoring the battle closely.

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