Russia sweeps away the ‘lie’ of the discovery of hundreds of bodies in Izium

Russia sweeps away the ‘lie’ of the discovery of hundreds of bodies in Izium

The Kremlin on Monday called the discovery of hundreds of graves in a forest near the town of Izium, recently taken by Ukrainian forces, a “lie”, the latest Russian denial of abuses.

Ukrainian authorities announced the macabre discovery on Friday near this pre-war town of around 50,000, which was under Russian occupation from April to early September.

AFP journalists on Friday saw hundreds of graves marked with a cross and numbers or names and dates, as well as a mass grave containing 17 bodies of Ukrainian soldiers, forensic scientists said.

At least one of the bodies had his hands tied with ropes.

According to Ukrainian authorities, more than 440 graves were found in this forest near Izium, in which the national police say they found “torture rooms”, as in other recently taken over sites.

“That is a lie. We will of course defend the truth in this case,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to him on Saturday about “new evidence of torture” in Izium, where “the exhumation process is ongoing”.

Russian forces have been accused of widespread ill-treatment in areas under their control in Ukraine, notably in Boutcha on the outskirts of Kyiv, where the bodies of civilians were found who were executed in cold blood in the streets after they left in late March.

Moscow denies committing these crimes, citing Ukrainian “forgeries”.

The Czech EU presidency on Saturday called for the creation of a special international tribunal on Izium, and the UN said it plans to send a team “soon”.

– Target nuclear power plant –

On the ground, Ukraine on Monday accused the Russian army of bombing the site of the Pivdennooukrainsk nuclear power plant in the south of the country after weeks of tensions around Moscow-occupied Zaporizhia, which has been attacked on several occasions.

According to the operator Energoatom, “a huge explosion occurred just 300 meters from the reactors” of this plant, which led to a night attack by a Russian missile.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated that Russia is “endangering the whole world” and called for “stop it until it’s not too late”.

In Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, 13 civilians were killed Monday in a Ukrainian “punitive blow” in that city’s square that has evaded Kiev’s control since 2014, according to the pro-Moscow mayor.

In the neighboring Lugansk region, the separatists sentenced an employee of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to 13 years in prison for “high treason” for leaking “confidential information” to a foreign intelligence agency, the CIA.

In the rest of Ukraine, 10 civilians have been killed and 22 injured in the past 24 hours, according to the Ukrainian Presidency report, which reported shelling in several regions along the frontline and fighting primarily in Lugansk in the east.

– No water, no electricity –

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, AFP journalists saw artillery fire on the Kupyansk front lines, while a steady stream of traumatized civilians left the city, which had fallen under Ukrainian control.

Huge pro-Russian propaganda posters could still be seen in the streets of the city, and the streets were littered with broken glass, bullet casings and leftover food.

“There has been no light, no electricity for a week. No water,” Rouslan, a 49-year-old former police officer, told AFP.

In the same region, AFP journalists also collected testimonies from Ukrainians who said they were tortured by Russian soldiers during the occupation by Russian forces.

“They hit my heels, my back, my legs and my kidneys,” testified Mykhaïlo Tchindeï, 67, who was hit in Izioum hospital. He says he was locked in a damp cell for 12 days and his prison guards broke his arm with a metal bar.

The Russian soldiers accused him of giving the Ukrainian forces the coordinates of a school where they were based. A Ukrainian bombardment had killed many soldiers there.

If Ukraine’s advance has been slowing for several days, President Zelenskyy insisted on Sunday evening that it was “not a pause” but “preparing the next steps”, with Russia holding a large part of the Donbass (east) and the Kherson and Russia regions control Zaporijjia (south) after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.


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