Earth reveals horrors behind graves in Ukraine
By Stefan J. Bos
Clouds were hanging over this area, and there was rain as emotional Ukrainians dug between the many makeshift graves in a pine forest at the edge of Izyum city.
There was brief joy here that Ukrainian forces recaptured Izyum as part of a significant counter-offensive to halt Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
But now, the stench of death fills the air as a mass exhumation of some 440 graves near Izyum.
Signs of torture
Slowly but surely, the earth reveals its secrets to shocked investigators uncovering the human remains of men, women, and children presumably killed by Russia's military. "We have information about several people killed by the Russian artillery and missile strikes. We also know about graves of civilians tortured and killed by Russian forces," noted Oleksandr Filchakov, the head of the regional Kharkiv Prosecutor's Office.
"At this grave, we found a body with a rope around the neck, with injuries on the limbs. These are all indications of torture," the prosecutor added while showing the site.
The alleged atrocities are revealed at a time when Kyiv claims to have recaptured over 8,000 square kilometers or 3,000 square miles this week in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would not give up the battle despite concerns that an increasingly desperate Russia could use nuclear weapons to halt the counter-offensive. "Making a deal with Russia out of fear for what they could do would be even worse," he said.
"This would definitely be the beginning of World War Three. Because it would allow Russia or other countries considering something like this or the leaders or those poor people who choose such autocrats, to use these weapons and take territory or threaten others with nuclear weapons, take territory and torture people," the president warned.
He believes that Russia already uses Ukraine's massive Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which it captured, as a pre-positioned atomic weapon to threaten millions of people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that despite the Ukrainian offensive, his military operation in Ukraine's industrial Donbas region remains on track.
Critics argue that Putin falsely claims the invasion is necessary to save Russian speakers from genocide in the Donbas area as Russian-backed separatists have occupied it since 2014.
The Kharkiv region, where Ukraine's recent counter-attack was launched, is not part of the Donbas. It underscored indications that Russia intended to take over Ukraine but was forced to withdraw from many areas after fierce resistance by the Western-backed Ukrainian army.