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Russia: Hundreds of tombs found in Ukraine’s Izyum are ‘lies’

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The Kremlin on Monday described as “lies” information about the discovery of hundreds of tombs in Izyum in eastern Ukraine after they were recently retaken from Russian forces.

On Friday, the Ukrainian authorities announced the discovery of more than 440 graves and a mass grave in a forest on the outskirts of the city of Izyum, which had a population of about fifty thousand people before the war, and was controlled by Russian forces from April until early September.

On Friday, AFP journalists at the site saw hundreds of graves bearing the sign of the cross and numbers or names and dates, in addition to a mass grave containing 17 bodies of Ukrainian soldiers, according to forensic doctors. Some of the bodies that were found in handcuffs bear signs of torture.

In Izyum and other cities recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces, the National Police also found “torture chambers”.

“They are lies. We will, of course, defend the truth in this case,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of “new evidence of torture” in Izyum, where “the exhumation of the bodies continues.”

The Russian forces were accused of committing many atrocities in the lands they controlled in Ukraine, especially in Bucha, near Kyiv, where, after their withdrawal in late March, the bodies of civilians who had been killed in cold blood were found. Moscow denies committing these crimes, speaking of Ukrainian “fabrication”.

The Czech Republic, which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, called on Saturday for the establishment of a special international court for Iseum, and the United Nations said it intended to send a mission to the city “soon”.

Targeting a nuclear plant

On the ground, Ukraine on Monday accused the Russian army of bombing the site of the Pevdenokrainsk nuclear power plant in the south of the country, after weeks of tension around the Moscow-controlled Zaporizhia plant.

The state-run Energoatom company, which operates Ukrainian nuclear plants, announced that “a powerful explosion occurred at a distance of only 300 meters from the reactors” at this station, noting that it was a nightly Russian missile strike.

Commenting on the missile strike, which targeted the site of the Bivdnokrainsk station in the Mykolaiv region (south), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said via Telegram that “Russia is endangering the whole world.” “We have to stop it before it’s too late,” he added, accompanying the post with a black and white surveillance video showing a strong explosion.

In the evening, Zelensky confirmed that the Ukrainian army “firmly maintains its positions” and “is in the process of establishing stability” in the Kharkiv region, while the Ukrainian field progress has been slowing down for several days.

In Donetsk, a stronghold of pro-Russian separatists, 13 civilians were killed on Monday in a Ukrainian strike on a square in the city that has not been under Kyiv’s control since 2014, according to the pro-Moscow mayor.

In the neighboring Lugansk region, separatists sentenced two OSCE employees to 13 years in prison for “high treason” for providing classified information to foreign intelligence services, including the CIA.

Across Ukraine, 10 civilians were killed and 22 others were injured during the last 24 hours, according to a toll issued by the Ukrainian presidency, which spoke of bombing operations in many areas along the front and battles, especially in Lugansk in the east.

No water, no electricity

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, AFP journalists reported artillery battles on the Kobyansk front as shocked civilians were leaving the Ukrainian-controlled city.

In the city, pro-Russian propaganda banners could still be seen, and the streets lay smashed glass, cans of cartridges and the rest of the food rations.

“There has been no light, no electricity for a week. No water,” Raslan, a 49-year-old former policeman, told AFP.

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