Mass graves near besieged Ukrainian city Mariupol are evidence of war crimes, say Ukrainian officials
Ukrainian officials say they have identified mass graves outside the city of Mariupol, which they say adds to mounting proof of Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians.
The claim is supported by photos collected and analyzed by US satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies that appears to show more than 200 new graves at a site on the northwestern edge of Manhush, a town around 12 miles (19 kilometers) to the west of Mariupol.
An estimated 100,000 people remain trapped in Mariupol which has been under constant bombardment since it was surrounded by Russian forces on March 1, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian officials claim that more than 20,000 people in the city have died during the assault.
In a post Thursday on messaging app Telegram, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said Russian trucks had collected bodies from the port city, before “dumping them” in Manhush. “This is direct evidence of war crimes and attempts to cover them up.”
A Maxar review of the satellite images from mid-March through to mid-April indicated the expansion of the grave site began between March 23 to 26, and continued into April. According to Maxar’s analysis, there are more than 200 newly dug graves at a site on the northwestern edge of Manhush.
“According to recent media reports, Russian soldiers have been taking the bodies of people killed in Mariupol to this location,” Maxar said in its analysis.
CNN cannot independently verify claims Russians have disposed of bodies in mass graves at that location. A firm death toll following weeks of heavy bombardment of Mariupol is not available.
However, journalists in Mariupol have documented the hasty burial of civilians in the besieged city, and images have surfaced on social media showing bodies apparently left for collection in the city.
Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, said Thursday that women, children and elderly had died on the streets of the city.
“Unfortunately, we have seen that the bodies of dead Mariupol residents have begun to disappear from the streets of our city,” he said.
According to Boichenko, the mass graves are off a bypass road, near a cemetery. He said there was a field near the cemetery with 30 meter-long (98-feet-long) ditches.
“And there they bury them, bring the bodies of the dead by trucks and throw them into these ditches,” he said.