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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Ukrainians Inspect Grave Site after Russians are Expelled 

President Volodymyr Zelensky said investigators had discovered new evidence of torture used against the people buried in Izium

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UKRAINE. Izium: Residents of the Ukrainian town of Izium searched for their dead relatives in a nearby wooded grave site as emergency personnel continued to exhume what they said were hundreds of bodies discovered after Russian forces were expelled from the region.

The causes of death for a lot of these bodies found at the grave site just last week have not yet been established, although residents say some died in an airstrike. 

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Ukrainian authorities have said that at least one of the bodies had tied hands and bruise marks on the neck, suggesting some form of coercion or unnatural death.

New evidence of torture

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said investigators had discovered new evidence of torture used against the people buried in Izium, one of the dozens of towns reclaimed in north-eastern Kharkiv after a lightning Ukrainian counter-offensive earlier this month.

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In a video address late on Saturday, Zelensky gave the routine update on the crisis and said, “More than ten torture chambers have already been found in the liberated areas of Kharkiv region, in various cities and towns.”

“Torture was a widespread practice in the occupied territories. That’s what the Nazis did – this is what (the Russians) do,” he added. “They will answer in the same way – both on the battlefield and in courtrooms.”

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Resident Volodymyr Kolesnyk stepped in between the grave, clutching a neatly written list of names and numbers, trying to identify any relatives or family members he said were killed in an airstrike on an apartment building shortly before Izium fell to Russian forces in April.

Kolesnyk said he knew his relatives had been taken to the burial site and were in some of the graves marked with numbers. He was able to identify some of his family members from that piece of paper in his hands.

The list had been provided to him by a local funeral company that dug the graves. Kolesnyk paused before a cross marked with the number 199, and after cross-checking it with the numbers and names on the list, he carefully hung a small sign on it bearing the name of Yurii Yakovenko, his cousin.

Cross number 164, he said, was his cousin’s wife, and 174 was his cousin’s mother, Kolesnyk’s aunt.

“They buried the bodies in bags, without coffins, without anything. I was not allowed here at first. (The Russians) said it was mined and asked to wait. And there was a lot of them in the woods, so it was scary to come here,” Kolesnyk said.

No response from Russia

Meanwhile, the discovery of the graves has not incited any response from Moscow. On the contrary, it regularly denies committing any atrocities or crimes against humanity by targeting civilians.

The head of the pro-Russian administration that abandoned the area earlier this month accused Ukrainians of staging the atrocities at the city of Izium. “I have not heard anything about burials,” Vitaly Ganchev told Rossiya-24 state television.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet responded to the accusations. Still, he brushed off the severe ramifications of swift Ukrainian counter-offensive measures, casting Russia’s invasion as inevitable in curbing what he said was a Western ploy to tear Russia apart.

“The Kyiv authorities announced that they have launched and are conducting an active counter-offensive operation,” Putin said on Friday after a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the Uzbek city of Samarkand.

Well, let’s see how it develops, how it ends up,” he said with a grin.

Putin has warned Moscow would respond more forcefully if its troops were put under further pressure, raising concerns that he could at some point use unconventional means like small nuclear or chemical weapons if pushed too far.

When U.S. President Joe Biden was asked what he would say to Putin if he considered using such weapons, he replied: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two.” In a “60 Minutes” interview, he commented in a clip released by CBS on Saturday. 

Fears of a nuclear disaster or “catastrophe” continue to do the rounds as major shelling continues to pound Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for shelling around the plant that has damaged buildings and disrupted power lines needed to keep it cooled and safe.

One of the plant’s four main power lines has been repaired and is once again supplying the plant with electricity from the Ukrainian grid, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Saturday.

As Ukraine continues to win big in the south, where it hopes to trap thousands of Russian troops cut off from supplies on the west bank of the Dnipro river and retake Kherson, Russia also fights against these rapid counter-offensive measures.

Since Putin’s “special military operation” against Ukraine on February 24, several towns and cities across its regions have been reduced to rubble and accustomed to drone alarms. Ukraine is fighting its ultimate best to fend off Russian attacks and protect its country against Putin’s wrath.

Also Read: Australia Will Not Ban Russian Tourists as Part of Sanctions

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