Ukraine says a mass grave has been discovered in Izium, where Russians were ousted a few days ago

  • More than 400 bodies found in grave in northeastern town – police
  • Zelenskiy blames Russia and says it must be held accountable
  • No immediate public comment from Moscow on the allegation
  • Cities recaptured bombed by the Russians, according to Ukraine

KYIV, September 16 (Reuters) – Ukrainian authorities have discovered a mass grave containing 440 bodies in the northeastern town of Izium, which was recaptured from Russian forces a few days ago, officials said. responsible, including some people killed by shelling and airstrikes.

Thousands of Russian troops fled Izium last weekend after occupying the city and using it as a logistics hub in the Kharkiv region. They left behind large quantities of ammunition and equipment. Read more

“Mass graves are discovered in Izium after the liberation of the (Russians),” the largest burial site containing 440 unmarked graves, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry tweeted.

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Serhiy Bolvinov, the Kharkiv region’s chief police investigator, told Sky News: “Some died from artillery fire… others died from airstrikes.”

Reuters could not immediately verify the Ukrainian information and there was no immediate comment from Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who visited Izium on Wednesday, compared the discovery to alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces against civilians in Bucha, on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, at the start of the war.

“Russia is leaving death everywhere behind and must be held accountable,” Zelenskiy said in a video address Thursday night.

Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes.

BOMBING RAID

After a week of rapid Ukrainian gains in the northeast, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces were strengthening defenses and it would be difficult to keep up the pace of the advance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to publicly comment on the setback suffered by his forces this month. Ukrainian officials say 9,000 km2 (3,400 sq mi) have been taken over, a territory the size of the island of Cyprus.

Reuters video of the eastern town of Kupiansk, a key supply hub Ukrainian forces recaptured last week, showed many buildings were damaged or burned.

“No electricity, no communications…if there was communications, we could at least talk to the family. If only there hadn’t been all this bombing with everyone in their basements,” said a man.

The speed of the advance boosted Ukraine’s morale and allowed it to show its Western allies that it was looking for more weapons to support its defence.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden announced a new $600 million weapons package to help Ukraine, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and artillery shells. The United States has sent about $15.1 billion in security aid to Kyiv since the February 24 Russian invasion. Read more

Russian forces shelled the city of Kharkiv and other towns in the region on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said.

More than 90 missiles and artillery shells also targeted an area on the border with Russia, said Dmytro Zhyvytsky, governor of the Sumy region.

On the Russian side, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said the Ukrainian army shelled the town of Valuyki near the border.

“The anti-aircraft defenses have gone into action but there is destruction on the ground,” he said on Telegram. This included a decommissioned electrical substation and torched homes and private vehicles.

Reuters was unable to verify reports from the battlefield.

CHINA’S CONCERNS ABOUT UKRAINE

Putin said on Thursday he understood Chinese leader Xi Jinping was concerned about the crisis in Ukraine, a surprise acknowledgment of friction with Beijing over the war.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, China has toed a cautious line, criticizing Western sanctions against Moscow but stopping short of endorsing or aiding the military campaign.

“We understand your questions and concern about this. At today’s meeting, of course, we will explain our position,” Putin told Xi in Uzbekistan at their first meeting since the start of the war. Read more

Xi did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor in a Chinese report of the meeting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later told reporters the talks with China had been excellent.

The last time Putin and Xi met, they signed a “limitless” friendship agreement between their countries. Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine in what it called a “special military operation” to “disarm” its smaller neighbor.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of an unprovoked war of aggression.

“MORALLY ACCEPTABLE”

Pope Francis has said it is morally right for nations to supply arms to Ukraine to help the country defend itself. Read more

“It’s a political decision that can be moral, morally acceptable, if taken under conditions of morality,” Francis told reporters during a trip to Kazakhstan.

Francis also urged the government of Kyiv to be open to a possible dialogue, even if it may “smell” because it would be difficult for the Ukrainian side.

Ukraine’s fastest advance since ousting Russian forces from the capital in March has turned the tide of the six-month war

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Reports from Reuters offices; written by Grant McCool and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman & Shri Navaratnam

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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