(Kiev, Kharkiv) Ukrainian police announced on Saturday the discovery of a new mass grave containing the bodies of three men tied with their hands, tortured and then executed near Boutcha, a small town near Kiev that is the symbol of atrocities attributed to Russia, whose troops continued to shell the east of the country and gradually gained ground there.
Posted at 7:44 AM
Updated at 11:22 am
Coming out of the reserve that is usually the fate of the military, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby had publicly questioned the “depravity” of Russian President Vladimir Putin the day before, admitting that it was “difficult to view certain images. of atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Bodies of tortured men were found in Boutcha;
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urges NATO to stop sending weapons to Ukraine;
- The Russian army tries to gain ground around Kharkov in northeastern Ukraine;
- In total, “more than 8,000 cases” of alleged war crimes have been identified in Ukraine;
- Civilians cry out for help as Russians are driven back in Mariupol
“The victims were tortured for a long time […] In the end, each of them was shot in the temple,” Kiev region police chief Andriy Nebytov said in a statement on Saturday about the three bodies found the day before in a grave in Myrotske, a village near Boutcha. .
“The victims had their hands tied, clothes on their faces so they couldn’t see anything and some had gags in their mouths,” he added, pointing out that the bodies showed signs of torture.
Survivors of the March occupation of Boutcha by Russian troops who unsuccessfully tried to take Kiev told AFP this week about the prisoners on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs, the summary executions and the pools of blood in the houses.
Those who saw it “will remember it for hundreds of years,” said Viktor Chatylo, a resident of Yablounska Street, where AFP had noticed the presence of about 20 civilian bodies on April 2 after the departure of Russian troops.
“Nobody knows how much”
In an interview with the Polish press on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky estimated the number of bodies discovered in the Boutcha area at 900.
With Russian soldiers burning and burying bodies, “no one knows how many people have died,” he added.
The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office has already announced the charges against ten Russian soldiers, the list of more than 8,000 war crimes in Ukraine, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who visited Boutcha on Thursday, urged Moscow to “cooperate.” to the International Criminal Court’s investigation.
But Moscow denied any responsibility and spoke of a “staging”. The Russian army went so far as to attack Kiev while Mr Guterres was there, killing a journalist and sparking a chorus of international protests.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday, after a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, that “the mission of French experts who contribute to the collection of evidence to fight impunity and the work of international justice related to crimes committed in the context of the Russian aggression”.
He added that France would “strengthen” its shipments of military equipment to Ukraine — including long-range guns — to “restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
On the ground, having defeated the Russian army in its offensive launched on Kiev on February 24, Ukrainian forces are now struggling to counter the advance to the east of the country by an army in numerical superiority and currently better armed. Checkers. to take them in a vice from the north and south.
Volodymyr Zelensky specifically acknowledged Friday evening that the situation in the Kharkov region, the country’s second largest city near the Russian border, was “difficult”.
Violent explosions were heard in the city Friday night, shelled by Russian artillery for weeks. One person was killed and several injured in the bombing on Friday.
“If it was an infantry versus infantry war, we would have opportunities. But in this sector it is primarily an artillery war and we don’t have enough of it,” a 27-year-old staff sergeant who retired from Kreminna told AFP. , eastern city captured by the Russians on April 18.
Westerners, including the United States, France and Britain, have promised the Ukrainians hundreds of howitzers, but time is running out.
Objectives “to be achieved”
All the objectives of the “special military operation” – term used by the Kremlin for this war – “will be achieved despite the impediment of our opponents,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the “Chinese official China news agency released on Saturday.
He called on Westerners to stop arms deliveries to Ukraine “if they are really interested in solving the crisis”.
However, the Ukrainian army managed to achieve “tactical” successes, Volodymyr Zelensky pointed out, such as in Rouska Lozova, a recaptured village north of Kharkov, from which Russian troops stormed the city. More than 600 residents have been evacuated from the village, which has been occupied for two months, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
Ukraine has also allowed itself to attack strategic targets on Russian territory.
The governor of Russia’s Bryansk region, in northeastern Ukraine, Alexander Bogomaz, announced on Telegram that air defenses had “detected a plane of the Ukrainian armed forces” at 6:50 a.m. local time on Saturday and that two shells had damaged oil installations.
Several fuel reserves on Russian territory have been the target of apparent break-ins by Ukrainian forces in recent weeks, although Kiev has refused to confirm its involvement.
In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, 14 attacks by Russian troops have also been repulsed in the past 24 hours, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Saturday.
A longer offensive
A senior Pentagon official noted on Friday that if Russian forces are “a long way from connecting” troops passing through the Kharkiv region, north of Donbass, with those coming from the south of the country to With troops stationed on the front lines around the separatist areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, they continued to “create the conditions for a sustained, wider and longer offensive”.
In Mariupol, a major port city in the southeast, an evacuation operation for civilians planned for Friday has not taken place.
Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist eastern region of Donetsk, accused the Ukrainian armed forces of “acting like outright terrorists” and holding civilians hostage at the Azovstal metallurgical complex.
Several hundred Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are holed up in underground galleries in Azovstal.
AFP could hear heavy shelling in Azovstal Friday morning and until mid-afternoon during a press trip to Mariupol organized by the Russian army.
On the diplomatic front, while the Russian president was invited like his Ukrainian counterpart to the G20 summit scheduled for November in Indonesia, the United States said it refused to deal with Vladimir Putin “as if nothing had happened”.
14 Ukrainians released
Fourteen Ukrainians, including a pregnant woman, have been released in another prisoner exchange with Russia, Kiev announced on Saturday, without revealing the usual number of Russians transferred to Moscow.
“Today we have embarked on a new prisoner exchange. Fourteen of us are returning home, seven soldiers and seven civilians. One of the maids is five months pregnant,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told Telegram.
In an interview with the BBC on Friday, Mme Vereshchuk accused Russia of “deporting” large numbers of civilians across the border and using them as “hostages”.
“They have captured all these hostages – civilians, women, city officials, to try and use them,” she said. “We know there are more than a thousand hostages, including almost 500 women,” she said. “We know that they are in prisons and in pre-trial detention in Kursk, in Bryansk, in Ryazan, in Rostov.”
mme Vereshchuk also mentioned the difficulty of getting the women released.
“Now we refuse to arrange an exchange without women on the list. In this way we are somehow trying to save our women and our citizens,” she said.
Several prisoner exchanges have taken place between Kiev and Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.