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Ukraine war latest: Mounting evidence of Russian war crimes found in liberated Kharkiv Oblast

September 16, 2022 11:37 pmby Asami Terajima
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Ukraine war latest: Mounting evidence of Russian war crimes found in liberated Kharkiv OblastTwo workers stand at a mass burial site containing around 440 bodies found in liberated Izium, Kharkiv Oblast, on Sept. 16, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin/The Kyiv Independent)

Key developments on Sept. 16 

  • Bodies of Ukrainian soldiers with tied hands found at mass burial site in liberated Izium
  • Ukraine finds at least 10 Russian torture chambers in liberated Kharkiv Oblast 
  • Mysterious explosions reported in occupied Luhansk, Kherson
  • Fighting rages in Ukraine’s east and south

Law enforcement agencies continue to find more evidence of Russian war crimes in the recently liberated territories in Kharkiv Oblast following a successful counteroffensive in the northeast.

Exhumation works have started at a mass burial site with about 440 graves in liberated Izium, which had been discovered on Sept. 15.

Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said that bodies of Ukrainian soldiers with tied hands were found at the site. He added that the soldiers might have been tortured before being killed.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that bodies of children were also found at the same site.

United Nations human rights office said on Sept. 16 that it plans to send its monitors to inspect the site. The details are still unclear, including its timeframe.

At least 10 torture chambers have been discovered in the liberated areas of Kharkiv Oblast, Head of the National Police of Ukraine Ihor Klymenko said on Sept. 16. 

Two of the chambers were found in the city of Balakliia. One of them was located in a local police station. According to Klymenko, about 40 people were kept in captivity simultaneously there for up to 48 days. Another chamber in Balakliia was set up in a printing house.

People “were kept in terrible conditions, they were abused and tortured,” Klymenko said.

Six more torture chambers were found in Izium, the police chief said. 

More than 1,000 police officers have been additionally sent to collect evidence of potential Russian war crimes in the liberated territories of Kharkiv Oblast. Over 200 criminal proceedings against Russian troops have already been opened, according to Klymenko. 

Raging war

The Southern Operational Command reported that the front line situation in Kherson Oblast is “steadily tense, but under control.” 

The report also says that Russia’s military continues to shell Ukraine’s positions along the front line, all the while reorganizing its troops and likely planning new attacks. 

In Donetsk Oblast, Russian forces conducted attacks using their tanks, mortars and artillery in the direction of Sloviansk, Avdiivka, Bakhmut, and Kramatorsk, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military reported

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin reiterated on Sept. 16 that the seizure of entire Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine that comprises Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, remains the main aim of Russia's war. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine’s operation in Kharkiv Oblast was “extremely encouraging.” However, NATO chief warned that it was not a signal that the end of the war was approaching, calling on nations to prepare for the long haul. 

Workers exhume a body at a mass burial site containing around 440 graves in liberated Izium, Kharkiv Oblast, on Sept. 16, 2022. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin/The Kyiv Independent)

Blasts in Russian-occupied territories

Russian media reported explosions in occupied Luhansk in the east and Kherson in the south on Sept. 16. 

In the city of Luhansk, a former regional administrative center that Russia seized in 2014, its proxy leader Leonid Pasechnik said that a bomb blast had killed Sergey Gorenko, a proxy in charge of prosecution, and his deputy Ekaterina Steglenko at their office. Leonid Pasechnik blamed Kyiv for the attack.

Shortly after the reports of the explosion came out, adviser to Zelensky’s office Mykhailo Podolyak denied Ukraine being behind the mysterious blast. He suggested that it may have been an internal mafia dispute or an attempt to get rid of witnesses of war crimes. 

Also on Sept. 16, Russian state-controlled RIA Novosti news agency published a video allegedly taken in occupied Kherson capturing what it says is the aftermath of a different blast. 

The report claimed, citing local proxies, that the Ukrainian strike damaged an administration building and nearby residential buildings in occupied Kherson – Ukraine’s ultimate target in its ongoing southern counteroffensive. 

The Guardian said it appears to be the work of both intelligence and U.S.-provided HIMARS long-range rockets, with Kyiv likely carrying out the strike as proxies in Kherson Oblast met inside the city’s main government building and court. 

Many Russian soldiers and collaborators were killed in the explosion, Serhiy Khlan, a member of the Kherson Oblast Council, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He did not comment on who was behind the attack.

Ukraine hasn’t officially commented on the attack.

Casualties

Even though the flood situation in the city of Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, has improved days after a Russian missile strike on a local dam on Sept. 14, the city was hit once again.

The recent Russian missile strike hit hydraulic facilities again, according to Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Governor Valentyn Reznichenko, who reported “serious damage” inflicted on the infrastructure.

Another attack on Dnipropetrovsk Oblast hit the village of Velyka Kostromka, killing two people and wounding one, according to governor Reznichenko. The official also reported some infrastructural damages but didn't provide details.

In embattled Donetsk Oblast, another five people were killed and six others were wounded within a day, its governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported in the morning of Sept. 16. 

Kyrylenko said that Russian forces have shelled Bakhmut and Pokrovsk districts overnight, followed by an especially intense attack on Avdiivka’s city center in the morning. 

Russian S-300 air defense missiles also struck the village of Selydove at midnight, damaging 32 residential buildings, a school, a gymnasium, and a kindergarten, according to the governor. 

Russian shelling also struck Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest metropolis, its mayor Ihor Terekhov reported on Sept. 16. Four people received minor injuries as a result of the attack, according to the official. 

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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