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Ukraine war latest: Identification procedures begin at mass burial site in liberated Izium as Russia’s attacks intensify across Ukraine

September 19, 2022 12:15 amby Asami Terajima
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Ukraine war latest: Identification procedures begin at mass burial site in liberated Izium as Russia’s attacks intensify across UkraineWorkers exhume a body at a mass burial site containing around 450 graves in liberated Izium, Kharkiv Oblast, on Sept. 16, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin/The Kyiv Independent)

Key developments on Sept. 18

  • Ukraine identifies some of the bodies found at Izium’s mass burial site 
  • The exhumation process in Izium to continue for nearly 2 more weeks 
  • Russia bombards several regions across Ukraine 
  • Fighting rages on in Donetsk and Kherson oblasts

Some of the bodies exhumed from the mass burial site discovered in liberated Izium have already been identified, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Sept. 18. 

Some relatives of missing people that have provided their DNA have already been informed that their loved ones were among the dead in Izium, according to Vereshchuk.

The identification procedure, expected to be a long and laborious process, has begun at the mass burial site that contains about 450 bodies, most of whom reportedly belonged to civilians.

“We are seeing a terrifying number of people, graves (and) mass graves of tortured civilians,” Vereshchuk said. 

Not all the bodies have been exhumed yet. Izium Mayor Valerii Marchenko said that the exhumation works would continue for nearly two more weeks “because there are many burials” in the city Ukraine has recently recaptured during its fast counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast. 

Such mass graves were also discovered in Bucha, Kyiv’s satellite city liberated on March 31. Authorities exhumed all 116 bodies found in Bucha and re-buried them after identification. Dozens of bodies remain unidentified.

Mass graves were also seen in the satellite images taken near the southeastern city of Mariupol in Donetsk Oblast, which Russia captured in May after a brutal months-long siege. Thousands are believed to be buried there. Ukraine hasn’t been able to access the burial sites in the occupied city.

Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov said on Sept. 17 that virtually all the bodies found on the second day of the exhumation process in Izium had “signs of violent death.” 

On Sept. 17, Syniehubov said that Ukraine exhumed a total of 59 bodies at the site: 17 military personnel and 42 civilians, including 26 women and 16 men.

“This is a tragic and terrible consequence of the six-month occupation,” Syniehubov said of Izium which endured Russian occupation since early April. 

In Ukraine’s south, Russian media on Sept. 18 reported six “powerful blasts” in occupied Kherson, Ukraine’s ultimate target in the ongoing counteroffensive in the region. 

Meanwhile, 250 Ukrainian troops with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo returned home to defend their country. The withdrawal of Ukraine’s aviation unit had been announced in March. 

Battlefield developments

Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command called the situation on the front line in Kherson Oblast “tense, difficult, but controlled.” 

The Ukrainian military is focusing on getting a firmer grip on liberated territories in southern Kherson Oblast, according to the report. 

Meanwhile, Russian troops are regrouping for future attacks in “various” directions and looking for ways to pull in more reserve forces to the front line, the Southern Operational Command said. 

While Russian forces have decreased the intensity of their attacks along the front line in Kherson Oblast, they continue to terrorize civilians living in the hot spots of the region, according to the Southern Operational Command. 

In eastern Donetsk Oblast, Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near eight settlements but their military positions came under fire along the front line, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military reported

In northeastern Kharkiv Oblast, Ukrainian forces have crossed the Oskil River dividing Ukrainian and Russian-controlled areas, according to Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai.

Earlier, unconfirmed reports circulated of Ukrainian troops taking the eastern part of Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast. 

Firefighters extinguish a fire after a flat was hit by a missile strike in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast on September 15, 2022. (Photo by Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images)

Incidents in occupied territories

The day began with the Russian state-controlled Ria Novosti news agency reporting “six powerful blasts” in the center of occupied Kherson. Russian proxies in Kherson blamed Ukrainian forces for missile attacks on the city.

The mysterious explosions came the day after Ukrainian and Russian Telegram channels reported sounds of gunfire being heard in the city that’s been occupied since early March. 

Adviser to Zelensky’s office Mykhailo Podolyak denied Ukraine’s involvement in the alleged shooting in Kherson, calling it “another manifestation of the growing tension” among Russian occupying forces. 

Russian Telegram channels were claiming, without proof, that the shooting was from Russian forces fighting with a group of Ukrainian “saboteurs.” 

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson of the Southern Operational Command, called it Russia’s provocation and an attempt to discredit Ukrainian soldiers. 

Explosions and shooting incidents being reported in occupied territories are likely Russia’s attempt to influence local perceptions of Ukrainian soldiers, and frame them as invaders instead of liberators, according to Humeniuk.

Casualties

Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported on Sept. 18 that another five people were killed and 18 others wounded within a day in his embattled region. 

Two were killed in Bakhmut close to Luhansk Oblast, while the other three were killed in Vuhledar and Heorhiivka which are located near the occupied regional capital of Donetsk. 

In the nearby Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, continued Russian shelling killed two people and wounded three others in Pokrovsk municipality in the east, close to Donetsk Oblast, as well as in Nikopol in the south and Chervonohryhorivka municipality located on the western side of the Dnipro River, the region’s governor Valentyn Reznichenko reported

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, its mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych said a renewed overnight Russian shelling had damaged civilian infrastructure, including a hospital and an automobile storage facility. 

In northeastern Kharkiv Oblast, its governor Syniehubov said medical workers came under fire while evacuating psychiatric patients in the village of Strilecha just north of Kharkiv. The village was liberated on Sept. 12. 

Russian forces “began massive shelling” during the evacuation process, killing at least four medical workers and two patients, the governor said. 

“(Russian) occupiers ruthlessly terrorize the civilian population,” Syniehubov said. 

Asami Terajima
Author: Asami Terajima

Asami Terajima is a national reporter at the Kyiv Independent. She previously worked as a business reporter for the Kyiv Post focusing on international trade, infrastructure, investment and energy.

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