Kiev reports finding mass burial site near northeastern city previously occupied by Russian forces, likening the area to Bucha and Mariupol cities which have become symbols of atrocities during Russian assault on Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities have found a mass grave of more than 440 bodies in the eastern city of Izyum that was recaptured from Russian forces, a regional police official said, adding some of the people had been killed by shelling and air strikes.
Serhiy Bolvinov, the chief police investigator for Kharkiv region, told Sky News that forensic investigations would be carried out on every body.
"I can say it is one of the largest burial sites in a big town in liberated (areas)... 440 bodies were buried in one place," Bolvinov said.
"Some died because of artillery fire ... some died because of air strikes," he said. Thousands of Russian troops fled Izyum at the weekend.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy put the blame on Russia and likened the discovery to what happened in Bucha, on the outskirts of the capital Kiev in the early stages of the late February invasion by Russian forces.
"Russia is leaving death behind it everywhere and must be held responsible," Zelenskyy said in a video address.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused the Russian forces of perpetrating "war crimes" there. Russia has repeatedly denied such charges.
Associated Press journalists saw the site in a forest outside Izyum. A mass grave bore a marker saying it contained the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers. It was surrounded by hundreds of individual graves with only crosses to mark them.
Fresh graves, discovered in 🇺🇦Izium after the retreat of 🇷🇺Russian forces. Mostly civilians. pic.twitter.com/M1HXvSMxeJ— Danylo Mokryk (@DMokryk) September 15, 2022
Ukraine's Deputy Interior Minister, Yevhen Enin, said that evidence of the Russian troops setting up multiple "torture chambers" where both Ukrainian citizens and foreigners were detained "in completely inhuman conditions" was found in cities and towns recaptured during Kiev’s sweeping advance into the Kharkiv region.
"We have already come across the exhumation of individual bodies, not only with traces of violent death but also of torture – cut off ears, etc," Enin said.
Earlier on Thursday, Zelenskyy said that during the five months the Russians occupied the region, they "only destroyed, only deprived, only took away. They left behind devastated villages; in some of them, there is not a single undamaged house."
"The occupiers turned schools into garbage dumps, and churches – shattered, literally turned into toilets."