Ukrainian officials said they had completed the exhumation of bodies from a mass burial site in Izium – and of the 436 bodies found, 30 showed signs of torture.
In a horrifying reminder of the human cost of the Russian invasion, most of the bodies showed signs of violent death, said Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv region’s military administration.
“There are bodies with a rope around their necks, bound hands, broken limbs and gunshot wounds. Several men have had their genitals amputated,” Syniehubov said in a Telegram post on Friday.
“All of this is proof of the terrible torture the occupiers have subjected the people of Izium to.”
Syniehubov added that most of the bodies were civilians and only 21 were military.
Izium, which lies near the border between Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, came under heavy Russian artillery attack in April before it was occupied. It then became an important hub for military invaders during five months of occupation.
Ukrainian forces regained control of the city this month, delivering a strategic blow to the Russian military assault in the east.
Russian forces were forced to flee the strategic eastern town after Ukrainian forces began a new offensive east through the Kharkiv region.
While Ukraine’s offensive has succeeded in regaining thousands of square miles of territory, it has also revealed evidence of the horrors suffered by civilians and soldiers at the hands of Russian troops.
Syniehubov said it was not the only mass cemetery that had been discovered. There are at least three more in other liberated areas of the Kharkiv region, he said.
He added that each of the bodies found had a separate story, and he pledged to find out the circumstances of each of their deaths “so that their relatives and friends know the truth and that the killers are punished”.
“All the occupiers’ crimes will be documented and the perpetrators will pay for what they did,” Syniehubov said.
I thanked the 200 people – including forensic experts, police and State Emergency Service employees – who worked there every day for their “morally difficult but necessary work.”