As the Ukrainian counter-offensive advances in the east of the country, troops discover mass graves left behind by the Russian army. On Saturday, the regional governor of the Kharkiv region accused the Russians on Telegram of shooting dead 24 people “including children and a pregnant woman” as they tried to flee the bombing by car.
At least 24 civilians, including 13 children, were found dead in their cars in northeastern Ukraine near Kupyansk, regional governor Oleg Synegoubov said on Saturday. “A convoy of cars with dead civilians on board was spotted,” he said on Telegram. According to a preliminary count he shared, “24 people, including a pregnant woman and 13 children,” were killed. “The (Russian) occupiers attacked these civilians who were trying to escape the shelling.” “They fired at close range,” he added.
An investigation is underway
According to Oleg Synegoubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, where the bodies were found, “police and experts were at the scene” and “an investigation is underway.” According to the regional prosecutor’s office, seven cars driven by civilians were found. “Two cars burned out completely, there were children with their parents: they burned alive,” he said in a statement.
The spokesman for the Kharkiv region prosecutor’s office, Dmytro Chubenko, said in an interview with a TV channel that the location of the massacre on the front line in a “grey area” hampered the “investigation”. “Ukrainian military control over this area is not permanent,” he said. “Sometimes it comes under our control and then under Russia’s control, so we can’t do all the investigative measures.”
Ukrainian authorities promise ‘punishment’ to Russians
For the head of Ukraine’s security service, Vassili Maliouk, “the (Russians) are defeated on the battlefield and in desperation they react by killing civilians”. “But they will not escape punishment. We will find everyone and hold them accountable for the atrocities committed,” he said.
On Friday, an AFP team saw at least 11 bodies of civilians shot dead in their cars on a road abandoned by the Russians last week as they retreated from the region. The convoy of vehicles seen by AFP on Friday was on a road leading out of the village of Kyrylivka, 70 km east of Kharkiv, when it was attacked. On the spot, the bodies still lay there, in or next to six vehicles. A minibus burned out completely, on the seats lay four bodies, one of which appeared to be that of a child.
A litany of terror
The site where the dozen civilians were found is in a place where fighting between Ukrainians and Russians recently took place when Kyiv forces launched a major counter-offensive in the region.
Faced with significant military difficulties, Russian soldiers retreated further east across the Oskil River, but Ukrainians have since managed to cross it, a major achievement for Kyiv. A pro-Russian separatist official, speaking from Moscow on Thursday, accused the Ukrainian army of firing on a convoy of civilians in the Kharkiv region, killing 30, he said, without giving further details. Since the invasion began, Kyiv has denounced abuses by Moscow troops, allegations Russia has systematically denied.