Kremlin Rejects Mass Grave “Lie” & “Provocation” As Bodies Exhumed
The Kremlin has issued a firm statement Monday denouncing as “lies” the widespread Western allegations that Russian forces carried out atrocities against civilians and soldiers in the city of Izium in Ukraine’s east.
Top Ukraine officials, including President Zelensky himself, have in the last days been pressing the United Nations to urgently investigate and punish Russia and Putin for “mass graves” and “torture chambers” having been allegedly unearthed in Izium last week. Russia is dismissing the claim as war-time propaganda intent on pressuring Russia. “It’s a lie and of course we’ll stand up for the truth in this entire story,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a press briefing Monday.
“Kiev is pushing the same scenario in Izyum as it did with the provocation in Bucha,” Peskov followed with, in reference to allegations of torture and summary executions of civilians as Russia fought to take the Ukrainian city of Bucha in March. He then likened it to “Nazi propaganda.” At the time, Russian officials had denounced what became known in US and European media reporting as the “Bucha massacre” – dismissing it as manufactured propaganda “fakes” and “provocations”.
According to The Moscow Times, “Ukrainian officials said nearly all of the exhumed bodies in around 450 graves uncovered near Izyum last week showed signs of violent death.” Others have pointed out that in a war zone it’s likely many died by artillery strikes or by other munitions common in battle, and not necessarily “torture” – as Ukrainian officials are now alleging.
Over the weekend, the United Nations said it dispatched a forensic team of investigators to help examine the mass graves allegation in the wake of Russian forces’ prior retreat from Izium.
Previously, we noted some curious discrepancies in some of the initial mainstream media reporting surrounding the “mass graves” allegation. A number of pundits, for example, have questioned how it is that mass graves of torture victims came to be buried in what appears to be well-organized burial plots with large crosses marking the location of each grave. Did Russian forces commit horrific war crimes against civilians, only to then follow by giving the deceased a “proper burial” – each with large Orthodox style crosses or other religious markers erected in the ground? Or could religious markers have been added after the bodies were found by local townspeople and relatives?“
Russian media sources have asserted that in the absence of the Ukrainian side burying the dead after Russia initially captured Izium, members of the Russian armed forces conducted a large-scale burial.
Forensic investigators have meanwhile been exhuming the bodies, which follows fierce fighting in the area, after Russia first captured the region in March…
Echoing such skepticism, war correspondents with Telegraph issued statements casting doubt on a number of current Ukrainian claims:
Anton Herashenko, an advisor to the Ukrainian interior ministry, told the BBC on Thursday that about 1,000 bodies had been found in Izyum and that more civilians had died there than in Bucha.
The Telegraph did not see any evidence of that scale of death during a visit on Thursday. Hrigory [a 63-year-old civil engineer ,] denied knowledge of any war crimes.
“We didn’t interact with them, and they didn’t interact with us,” he said of the Russians. “From what I know, there wasn’t detentions, executions, torture.”
“There were a lot of young men who would say ‘we won’t shoot any bullets,’” he added.
A separate report from the Telegraph entitled, ‘Tortured’ bodies unearthed in mass graves of liberated town Izyum, includes the following:
Oleksandr Filchakov, the head of the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office, said some showed signs of torture. Reporters at the scene did not see proof of that.
However, local forensics teams are testifying that some bodies recovered thus far show signs of having been tortured. Deutsche Welle (DW) writes the following on Sunday as bodies were being exhumed:
According to Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors on the scene, most of the people killed were local residents. “Some of them could already be identified, but because their deaths occurred around six months ago, other corpses are in such a state of decomposition that it is difficult to draw any conclusions,” war crimes prosecutor Volodymyr Lymar, told DW. “This will require additional DNA tests to be carried out, including comparative DNA with relatives. What we can already establish though are signs of violent deaths. Some bodies show signs of possible torture.”
Leaders in the EU and US have since increased their calls for President Putin and his top officials and commanders to face war crimes tribunals, including at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Mon, 09/19/2022 – 13:05