The number of casualties in the recently-liberated town of Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast may exceed the number of deaths in Bucha, Oleh Kotenko, Ukraine’s Commissioner for Persons Gone Missing under Special Circumstances, said on Sept. 16, according to the press service of the Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories.
The ministry reported that the exhumation of bodies from mass graves had begun in Izyum. One of these places, according to Kotenko, was found on the video posted by the Russian invaders.
“Then the bodies will be handed over to experts for further identification of the dead,” Kotenko explained.
“Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of our work here, how many more locations will be found in the de-occupied territories is not yet known, but the harsh reality indicates that the number of deaths in Izyum may be many times higher than the Bucha tragedy.”
National Police head Ihor Klymenko said during a press briefing that about 50 bodies of civilians (excluding mass graves) were found in the territory liberated from the Russian troops in Kharkiv Oblast during the week.
"...There are about 445 graves at a mass burial place of our citizens [near Izyum],” Klymenko stated.
“The nature of injuries, the causes of death will be established. This process will take weeks... The corpses have been buried there since March. We will have to exhume and identify each body.”
Klymenko added that the graves are located near the local cemetery, close to the former positions of Russian occupying forces. Local residents reported that Russians were engaged in vandalism and fired at gravestones at the cemetery.
On Sept. 15, Kotenko reported that mass graves had been found on the territory of the forest copse in Izyum. Most of the graves had homemade crosses and numbers on them. The Ombudsman speculated that most of the buried were killed during the Russian artillery shelling.
Serhiy Bolvinov, head of the Kharkiv Oblast police investigation department, said that about 440 graves were found at the mass grave site. All bodies will be exhumed and sent for forensic medical examination.
Izyum city council member Maksym Strelnyk said earlier that at least 1,000 civilians had died in Izyum, Kharkiv Oblast, during the Russian occupation, and more than 80% of the town’s infrastructure was destroyed.