Forensic police in Izyum Forensic police in Izyum 

Ukraine to exhume mass graves in recaptured territory

Ukrainian authorities are starting to exhume mass graves discovered outside the city of Izyum in eastern Ukraine, in a territory recaptured from Russia.

By Stefan J. Bos

Kyiv says hundreds of graves have been found outside Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, days after it was re-taken from Russia's military. Most wooden crosses, marked with numbers, were discovered in a forest outside the city by advancing Ukrainian forces.

As they began exhuming some of the graves on Friday, it was unclear what happened to the victims. However, some officials suggest that at least several victims may have died from shelling and a lack of access to healthcare.

Ukraine's national police service says most of the bodies belonged to civilians, and authorities believe more than 400 bodies are buried at the site. The United Nations hopes to send a monitoring team to the city to investigate possible war crimes.

The discovery underscored the mounting human suffering in Russia's nearly seven-month-long invasion of Ukraine.

But the war isn't going according to Russia's plan, with Kyiv claiming it has recaptured 8,000 square kilometers or 3,100 square miles of territory in the east and south of the country.

Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are believed to have died, and this month several Russian politicians dared to ask for Russian President Vladimir Putin's resignation.

Hired mercenaries

With the death toll mounting, Russia appears to increasingly rely on mercenaries and Chechen forces to take back territory from Ukraine or at least keep what they conquered.

A video has emerged of a Russian mercenary boss purportedly recruiting prisoners to join his controversial Wagner Group. The group's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, told them that "the war is brutal and doesn't look anything like the war in Chechnya."

He also said those who do not want to send convicts to fight should send their children instead. In the leaked footage, he told inmates they would be freed if they served six months with his group. However, he admitted that he could not ensure that everyone "would return alive."

The Wagner Group is believed to have been fighting in Ukraine since 2014.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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16 September 2022, 16:17