NV correspondent Askold Krushelnycky on Sept. 16 visited the site of a mass burial found in a forested area near the town of Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast, which was liberated from Russian occupation on Sept. 10. The site has hundreds of fresh graves, and, on opening them, Ukrainian police uncovered evidence of horrific crimes against civilians occurring over the period of over six months while the Russian army was in control of the area. Photos and text by Askold Krushelnycky.
Dozens of firemen, police, and soldiers have been sent to a forest cemetery near Izyum in newly liberated Kharkiv Oblast to unearth the remains of people killed during Russia’s military occupation of the area. The site has more than 440 fresh graves, many with no names, but just numbers, etched on simple wooden crosses.
As the bodies from the first graves were exhumed, it was clear that some had not only died violent deaths, but had been subjected to torture before being killed. The bodies of men, women and children were found. Some are suspected to have been killed in Russian shelling of Izyum when the Russians attacked and captured the city.
Firemen, police and soldiers take a break during the exhumation of bodies at a grave site in a forest near Izyum, Kharkiv Oblast. Forensic experts are working at the site to established how the people buried there died. Local officials have said 99% of the people show signs of having suffered a violent death.
The desiccated body of a man exhumed from a grave at a
forest burial site near Izyum, Kharkiv Oblast. The body was still wearing a
bracelet in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. The man was later
identified by his tattoos as Serhiy Sova, a Ukrainian soldier who had served
with the Kholodny Yar 93rd Mechanized Brigade. Sova, a resident of Nikopol,
Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, had fought in Ukraine’s army since the war with Russia
began in 2014.
Other bodies, like that of this man, with his hands still
tied behind his back, showed signs of having suffered an execution-style murder
– similar to the ones the Russia army carried out in atrocities in Bucha and
other suburban towns in Kyiv Oblast in March. Yet more bodies bore signs of
having been tortured and/or mutilated before death. At least one man had been
A forensic scientist gives a police officer the preliminary
findings of his examination of a body exhumed from what is now a suspected war
crimes site. Locals have told police that Russian soldiers demanded money to
record the names of those buried to be put on the grave markers. Many of the
wooden crosses marking the graves have only numbers, and part of the work will
be to identify the bodies they contain.
A distraught forensic scientist rests after carrying out
examinations of some of the 176 bodies so-far exhumed from a mass burial site
near the newly liberated town of Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast. Local authorities are
collecting evidence of possible war crimes committed by the Russian occupation
forces that were in control of the area for more than six months.