BUCHA, Ukraine (AP) – The lush beauty of a pine forest and singing birds contrasts with the violent deaths of newfound victims of Russia’s war in Ukraine, as workers found another burial near Buka on the outskirts of Kyiv. The bodies were removed from the site.
Many of the victims had their hands tied behind their backs. The grueling task of excavating the remains coincides with a report from a Ukrainian police chief that authorities have launched a criminal probe into the Russian war-torn killing of more than 12,000 people.
Workers, wearing white hazmat suits and protective masks, used shovels to remove bodies from the forest floor, marking each section with small yellow markers on the ground. Carcasses covered in cloth and earth attracted flies and were dragged with ropes.
“The bullets on their knees tell us that people were tortured,” said Kyiv regional police chief Andrey Nebyotov. Hands taped behind the back indicate that people were held hostage for a long time and (enemy forces) were trying to get information from them.
Since Russian troops withdrew from the area in late March, officials have uncovered the bodies of 1,316 people.
On Monday, journalists saw a mass grave at a site near Buka, where the horrors of the killings since Russia’s first territorial withdrawal in the war shocked the world. Journalists on Monday saw a mass grave just behind a ditch dug for a military vehicle. The bodies of seven civilians were exhumed from the mass grave. Nebyotov said two bodies were found with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the knees and head.
National police chief Igor Klimenko told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Monday that the criminal investigation into the deaths of more than 12,000 Ukrainians includes some found in mass graves. He said the mass killings of people were caused by snipers from tanks and armored personnel carriers. Bodies were found on the streets and in their homes and in mass graves. He did not specify how many of the more than 12,000 were civilians and military.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the American Jewish Committee on Sunday that the exact number of bodies in mass graves or elsewhere is not known. He cited the murder of two children who were killed with their parents in a Russian bomb attack in the basement of an apartment building in Mariupol.
Zelensky, who is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust, asked:
“Why is this happening in 2022? This isn’t the 1940s. How can the mass killings, torture, burned cities and filtration camps set up by the Russian military in occupied territories like Nazi concentration camps be true?
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Amnesty International accused Russia of the indiscriminate use of prohibited cluster weapons in attacks on Kharkiv that killed and injured hundreds of civilians in a report Monday.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has been under heavy shelling since the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine.
“People have died in their homes and streets, in playgrounds and cemeteries while queuing for humanitarian aid or shopping for food and medicine,” said Donatella Rowera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor.
“The repeated use of widely banned cluster weapons is shocking and another sign of total disregard for civilian life. The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable for their actions and the victims and their families should be fully compensated,” she said.
The group said it found evidence of repeated use of 9N210/9N235 cluster weapons, as well as stray mines, “both of which are subject to international treaty sanctions for their indiscriminate effect.” The report cited doctors from Kharkiv hospitals who showed researchers specific parts removed from patients’ bodies, as well as survivors and witnesses of the attacks.
The Russian military said Monday it had destroyed “a large number of weapons and military equipment” received by the Ukrainian military from the US and Europe.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said “high-precision air-launched missiles” disrupted supplies near the Udachna railway station in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Konashenkov also said that in the neighboring Luhansk region “a temporary deployment point for foreign mercenaries” and a Ukrainian radar station of the Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile system were destroyed.
Konashenkov said two batteries of multiple missile systems in the Luhansk and Kharkiv regions were destroyed.
Lugansk Governor Serhi Haidai told The Associated Press that fierce street fighting continued on Monday in Svyarodonetsk, one of two major cities in the region still fully occupied by Russian troops.
Haidai noted that the Russians currently control about 70% of the city and that Ukrainian forces are fighting them “block by block, street by street, house to house with varying degrees of success.”
More than 10,000 people live in the city, which is the main center of fighting in Donbass. Haidai said efforts to evacuate them halted after Russian troops destroyed two of the three bridges connecting Svyarodonetsk and Lisichansk, the second city of Luhansk to get past Moscow. The rest of the bridge is old, dilapidated and unsafe, the governor said.
Lysychansk remains under Ukrainian control but is regularly shelled by Russian forces. On Sunday, Haidai said the shelling killed three civilians in the city, including a six-year-old child.
Eduard Basurin, an official with the Russian-backed separatist forces in Donetsk, claimed Monday that Svyarodonetsk was in lockdown and Ukrainian militants had no choice but to surrender. Haidai dismissed the claim as “false.”
“There is no danger that our troops will be surrounded in the Lugansk region,” he said.
Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region said Monday Ukrainian forces opened fire on a market in the city of Donetsk, killing three civilians and wounding 18 others.
The Dutch government says it will host a ministerial accountability conference in Ukraine next month, aimed at strengthening and coordinating war crimes investigations.
Foreign Minister Vopke Hoekstra said in a statement on Monday that the international community had already taken immediate action to investigate alleged atrocities in Ukraine and that “there is an urgent need to further coordinate ongoing efforts on this front so that justice can be done.” “. All actions can be taken to benefit from a coherent and effective approach.”
The meeting will be hosted on July 14 in The Hague by the Dutch government’s European Commissioner, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan and Judge Didier Reynders.
Khan has already launched investigations in Ukraine, deploying his largest team of prosecutors in the country to collect evidence, including in Buka, near the capital Kyiv, where Russian forces began fighting in the region. After the retreat, the bodies were scattered in the streets.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry said the conference “offers states and other partners an opportunity to present their efforts and define a plan for joint action to ensure that serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law do not go unpunished.”
The ICC and the EU Agency for Judicial Cooperation will use the Eurojust Convention to develop guidelines for the collection and preservation of evidence by governments and the cooperation of non-governmental organizations.
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