Ukrainian officials say satellite images show mass grave near Mariupol with up to 9,000 bodies

Ukrainian officials say satellite images show mass grave near Mariupol with up to 9,000 bodies

Ukrainian officials say satellite images show a 300-meter mass grave in a Russian-occupied village near Mariupol where up to 9,000 people may be buried. Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko, in a report by the Mariupol City Council on Telegram, likened the site of the mass grave in the village of Manhush—about 20 kilometers from Mariupol—to Babi Yar, the ravine in Kyiv where 33,000 Jews were killed by Nazi occupiers in 1941, Ukrainskaya Pravda said.

The satellite image from April 9 was provided by U.S. defense contractor Maxar Technologies, which said it is 20 times the size of a mass grave seen in a satellite image of the liberated town of Bucha near Kyiv that contained the bodies of 70 civilians. Officials estimated that the Russian forces may have buried between 3,000 and 9,000 Mariupol citizens in Manhush.

⚡️Satellite imagery shows 985-foot-long mass grave in village near Mariupol. A trench that appears to be a place of mass burial was dug out between March 23 and March 29, according to satellite imagery found by RFE/RL. Photo: RFE/RL pic.twitter.com/sey5u8wLen

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) April 21, 2022

Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor, said that Russian troops collect the bodies of dead residents of Mariupol from the city’s streets and take them by truck to large refrigerated chambers at industrial facilities. The bodies are then put in black bags and disposed of in mass graves outside of Mariupol. ”We don’t know how many bodies there are or how to count them. There must be thousands of them there. … But at last, we have established where they are taking at least some of the people who were killed in Mariupol.”

Mariupol City Council sources told Ukrainskaya Pravda that the Russians dug new trenches on the outskirts of Mariupol and filled them with bodies on each day in April. Mariupol officials say at least 22,000 civilians have been killed by the Russian army since the siege of the port city began on March 1, but fear the death toll could be even higher. Before Russian forces took over nearly the entire Black Sea port city, Mariupol municipal services had buried nearly 5,000 people by mid-March.

Meanwhile, shelling by Russian occupiers prevented the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, according to Ukrainskaya Pravada. “No good news from Mariupol. It’s very tough. Everything that the Russians are doing is difficult, chaotic, slow, and, of course, deceitful,” she said.

On Wednesday, evacuation buses with 79 Mariupol residents were able to leave the city and arrived in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government. Ukrainian officials estimate that about 120,000 civilians remain in Mariupol, where supplies of food, water, electricity, and heat have been cut off.

Earlier Thursday, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Mariupol had been “liberated” by Russian forces, but also admitted that more than 2,000 Ukrainian defenders remain in the city, concentrated on the sprawling grounds of the Azovstal steel factory. There are also several hundred civilians sheltering there.  

Putin ordered Shoigu to call off the planned storming of the Azovstal plant, calling it “impractical.” “We should always think, in this case especially, about saving the lives and health of our soldiers and officers. There is no need to climb into these catacombs,” Putin said. “Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can escape.”

That move enabled the Russians to move a number of troops out of Mariupol to reinforce units fighting further north on the Donbas front. But Russian forces continued to bomb and shell the steel plant on Thursday, Ukrainskaya Pravda reported.
Zelenskyy denied Shoigu’s claim that Mariupol had been captured. “A part of the city is still ours, where our military personnel [are holding out], and they are remaining there for now.” Ukraine has demanded that Russia open a safe corridor for the evacuation of civilians and wounded soldiers from the underground shelters in the steel plant, but Russia has refused to do so.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine had offered to conduct a prisoner exchange, or at least an exchange of wounded soldiers. He said there are about 400 wounded Ukrainian soldiers at the Azovstal plant. Ukrainian defenders say they are continuing to inflict losses on Russian troops. The Azov Battalion said it had destroyed three Russian tanks and two armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles in the last two days alone, according to Ukrainskaya Pravda.

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