Whole family, including a young child, among hundreds of victims found in newly discovered mass grave in Ukraine
Izyum, Ukraine, is one of many towns that have been under the control of Russian forces for months, who have relentlessly shelled the area and its residents. The city was only recently liberated from Ukraine and it was discovered that so many people were being killed so quickly that hundreds were buried inside shallow mass graves – including at least one whole family.
CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta visited the site on Friday, where she learned the makeshift cemetery held those killed by shelling. Others buried had been executed, including some, according to Reuters, who were still buried with ropes around their necks and their hands tied.
Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, said in a video posted to Telegram on Friday that among those buried was “a whole family” — a mother and father in their 30s, their parents and their 5 or 6-year-olds -year-old -old daughter. The remains of the family are marked with plywood crosses and small yellow and purple flowers planted in the dirt covering them.
“We have testimonies from locals saying that they were all killed in an airstrike carried out by Russian Federation military planes,” Lubinets was translated into Ukrainian.
Russian troops controlled the city more than six months until Ukrainian forces were able to recapture it earlier this week.
Izyum resident Serhii Shtanko told Reuters that he believes his neighbor’s entire family, totaling seven, are also buried in the mass grave.
Patta reported that the bodies found there will be exhumed and identified in the coming days.
Oleh Synehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, told Reuters that Ukrainian officials received information about mass deaths while Russian forces were still occupying the region, but so far they have not been able to confirm the victims. Ukraine’s national police chief Ihor Klymenko said early Friday that many of the bodies are believed to have been buried since March.
“We didn’t have reliable information then, but now we have facts,” he said. “There are many children, there are corpses with their hands tied behind their backs. Each of these facts will be investigated and they will be legally verified. However, all of this can only testify that the world must recognize that this is a genocide by the Ukrainian people.”
Oleksandr Ilyenkov, the chief prosecutor for war crimes in Kharkiv, told Reuters there are believed to be about 500 civilian bodies at the site. Those numbers would make it the largest mass burial in Europe since discoveries after the Balkan Wars, Reuters said.