Ukraine examines bodies from mass graves discovered after regaining territory from Russia

A gruesome scene played out in Ukraine on Friday as authorities began examining bodies buried in what Kyiv calls the largest mass grave of the war. It was discovered near the city of Izium which is in the Kharkiv region just liberated from Russian occupation. Nick Schifrin reports from Ukraine.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A gruesome scene has played out today in Ukraine.

    Officials began examining bodies buried in what Kyiv calls the largest mass grave of the war. It was discovered near the city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region just liberated from Russian occupation.

    Nick Schifrin has our report.

  • And a warning:

    It contains disturbing images.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In a forest on the edge of Izyum, the ultimate dehumanization, unmarked graves. Some got numbers, civilian 258 of more than 400.

    This is now Ukrainian-held territory. So the Ukrainians buried here are finally accessible to investigators. But that means, in this war, the dead earn no rest.

    Today, authorities exhumed the bodies in order to try and hold Russia accountable. None of these Ukrainians received burials or coffins, but they were on the receiving end of Russian torture.

    Kharkiv's governor called it proof of Russia's intent to destroy.

  • Gov. Oleh Synyehubov, Kharkiv Region (through translator):

    There are many children. There are bodies with hands tied on their backs. Each of these facts will be investigated and they will get a legal review. The world has to acknowledge that this is a genocide of the Ukrainian people.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Many of Izyum's 40,000 residents left the city that was devastated by six months of occupation.

    But Serhii Shtanko stayed.

  • Serhii Shtanko, Izyum Resident (through translator):

    We retrieved our neighbor together with another neighbor. All of his family, seven people in total, are most likely buried here.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded the lawbreakers be labeled.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    If there is no recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, it will be a betrayal of all those who were killed by Russian forces, who were tortured, who were buried in numerous mass graves throughout the territory where Russia invaded.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Five thousand miles away, at a press conference with Jordan's prime minister, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the U.S. opposed labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, but said the U.S. was working hard to help Ukraine find justice.

    Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: In many instances, these will amount to war crimes. I think it will be very important to making sure that those who have committed atrocities and those who ordered them are held accountable.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That could require targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

    Today, at a conference in central Asia, he vowed to continue fighting.

  • Vladimir Putin, Russian President (through translator):

    Our offensive in the Donbass region is not stopping. It goes on slowly, gradually. We are not in a hurry.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But in a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he acknowledged for the second day in a row that the war was unpopular with an Asian partner.

  • Vladimir Putin (through translator):

    I know your stance on the conflict in Ukraine. I know about the concerns that you voice constantly. We will do everything for it to stop as soon as possible.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But it is not the Russians who are stopping. It's the Ukrainians who are liberating occupied territory and, in so doing, exposing the horror of Russian crimes.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin in Kyiv.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Late in the day, Ukraine's human rights commissioner estimated more than 1,000 people were tortured and killed across the Kharkiv region before it was liberated.

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