childbirth, torture, murder, burial… Ukrainian body excavation site ‘like hell’

“In the pine forest, the smell of the resin and the decaying bodies mingled and vibrated. Bodies with tied hands and broken arms and legs are coming from all over the place.”

Traces of war crimes such as enslavement, torture and murder committed by Russian forces during the occupation of Izum, the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, which was retaken by the Ukrainian army after more than five months, have been revealed. The Russian military also operated prisons for torturing civilians who cooperated with the Ukrainian army. The Guardian, a British daily, reported that 445 bodies had been found in the Izum mass burial site by the 17th. There are also comments that it could be a more catastrophic tragedy than the ‘Bucha Massacre’ outside the capital Kiiu, which shocked the world in March.

● Body digging site ‘like hell’… odor vibration

Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, began airstrikes on Izum in March and withdrew last week, five months after taking full control in April. Izum residents claimed, “It is impossible to describe in words how many people went missing during that time.” Ukrainian authorities have discovered a mass burial site of bodies in a forest outside Izum and are working to dig up their remains. After the discovery of 40 bodies on the 16th, bodies have continued to appear. Many of the bodies found in the ground had their hands tied to wooden crosses or rope wrapped around their necks. Most of them are believed to be civilians. Ukrainian prosecutors said the body had “severed arms and legs and contained traces of torture”. A woman’s wrist was found with a ‘blue and yellow’ bracelet symbolizing the Ukrainian flag.

Local residents said that “some of the bodies were people killed in Russian airstrikes.” One man shouted, “On May 16, my wife was hit by a Russian cluster bomb in the street.” Cluster bombs are so brutal that their use has been banned in more than 100 countries around the world. The man found his wife’s body in a burial site in the forest. CNN described in the United States, “Even after heavy rain fell in the forest, the smell of the body did not wash away.”

● Survivor of “Electric Torture”… international outrage

Survivors of Izum testified that the Russian army tortured the inhabitants. The publicist, Maxim Maximov, 50, who was taken away by the Russian army twice in March and September, said he was subjected to electric torture in an underground detention center at the police station. “The soldiers called me a ‘Ukrainian spy’ and sat me down in a chair, and they put crocodile teeth clips on my fingers,” Maximov said. It was connected to an old-fashioned Soviet field telephone machine,” he said. “The torture began when a soldier quickly turned the handle of the machine. My pulse was beating like crazy and my eyes and ears were deaf. After that, he fell down. ” The torture lasted about 40 minutes. “Some soldiers said they were from Belarus,” he told The Guardian. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky strongly criticized Russia. President Zelensky said in a video address to the nation on the 16th, “Russia is leaving death everywhere. Bucha Mariupol and now unfortunately Izum. Russia should be held accountable for this. “

The international community has called for an immediate investigation. On the 17th, Jan Lipavski, the Czech foreign minister, chairman of the European Union (EU), called for the establishment of a special international judicial tribunal, saying, “In the 21st century, such an attack on civilians is unimaginably monstrous.” CNN quoted a UN source as saying that “the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will move to Izum as soon as possible, and a war crimes investigation team will follow.”

By Lee Eun-taek, nabi@donga.com staff reporter

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