STORY: As Ukrainian investigators worked to uncover what they say are hundreds of bodies from a mass grave in the city of Izium – territory recaptured from Russian forces - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Reuters the scene was proof that Russia has committed war crimes in his country.
“Unfortunately, this looks like a bloody soap opera. After Bucha, we’re seeing similar sights in de-occupied regions of our country. In Izium, we found 450 dead people buried. But there are others, separate burials of many people. Tortured people. Entire families in certain areas.”
In an exclusive interview with Reuters from his presidential office, Zelenskiy likened the aftermath in some recaptured areas to Russia's withdrawal from the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, months ago… when dead civilians lay scattered over the streets.
Asked if there was evidence of war crimes, Zelenskiy had this to say:
“There are investigative commissions with international partners, partnered (with Ukraine) commissions. Also, our prosecutors are working together with international ones. There are cases, evidence and various investigations are being conducted. Not only Ukrainian, but international as well.”
Moscow has not commented on Izium’s graves.
But - Russia has previously denied targeting civilians and has said accusations of human rights abuses are a smear campaign.
U.N. human rights investigators will be sent to Izium, according a UN spokesperson, to determine whether the people found (quote) “died in hostilities.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday stressed the need for accountability in areas recaptured from Russia:
“...It's usually important that even as the Ukrainians do everything they can to take back the land that's been seized from them by Russia and this aggression, that at the same time we're all working to build the evidence and document the atrocities that have been committed. And in many instances, these will amount to war crimes, which I think is the appropriate frame through which to look at this. That work is going on. There needs to be accountability.”
Ukrainian officials on site said of the more than 400 bodies discovered, most are civilians. Some were alleged to have rope around their necks and tied hands.