New Mass Graves Found In Ukraine As Putin’s Atrocities Continue

If we have learned anything from past atrocity crimes is that mass graves will continue to be discovered for decades after the atrocities. Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine are likely to show the same trend. After the discovery of mass graves in Bucha and Mariupol, new mass graves or mass burial sites are now found in Izyum, a city recently freed from Russian occupation.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, unleashed on February 24, 2022, was followed by reports and evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide. The number of fatalities is growing, with the exact number being difficult to ascertain in the chaos of war. As more and more mass graves and mass burial sites are being discovered, the true scale and nature of Putin’s atrocities will come to light more and more.

A mass burial site containing around 440 graves was found in September 2022. Reportedly, among the bodies of those exhumed are also children. Many of the victims are said to be civilians. Authorities suspects that many of them have been tortured before being ultimately killed. Serhii Bolvinov, the chief police investigator for the Kharkiv region, reported that there were further burial sites in other parts of the Kharkiv region. Mr. Bolvinov continues to investigate the burial site but commented that: “We know that some were killed [shot dead], some died because of artillery fire, so-called mine explosion traumas. Some died because of airstrikes. Also we have information that a lot of bodies have not been identified yet. The reasons of death will be established during the investigations.”

The reporting from Izyum gives flashbacks of the crimes in Mariupol and Bucha. In Mariupol, collective graves were found after the siege of Mariupol and following reports of atrocities against civilians. As the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported, they took testimonies from Ukrainians who said that snipers positioned on roofs “would just shoot fairly randomly at civilians.” In Bucha, the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine recorded the unlawful killing of over 300 men, women and children.

The evidence of atrocities is being collected by several actors, including by domestic investigators and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Furthermore, steps are being taken to establish an ad-hoc tribunal for the crime of aggression. On September 21, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the U.N. General Assembly, “A Special Tribunal should be created to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against our State. This will become a signal to all ‘would-be’ aggressors, that they must value peace or be brought to responsibility by the world. We have prepared precise steps to establish such a Tribunal. They will be presented to all States. Ukraine will appeal to the UN General Assembly to support an international compensation mechanism.” Further details are yet to be revealed.

Ensuring justice and accountability for all Putin’s crimes is a massive endeavor that must be done right as a lot is at stake. While justice and accountability are crucial, even more urgent is prevention of further atrocities. As long as this war continues, it is highly likely that more mass graves and mass burial sites will be discovered in regions occupied by Putin’s army.