The bodies of more than 500 civilians have been discovered in territory in northeastern Ukraine recently recaptured from Russian forces, according to Ukrainian police.
And as Ukrainian forces liberate more land in the northeast, new burial sites are being discovered in Donetsk. Many appear to contain the remains of civilians who lost their lives during months of shelling and rocket fire.
“We found the bodies of 534 civilians from the unoccupied territories” in the Kharkiv region alone, said Serhii Bolnivov, head of the regional police investigation department.
The bodies included 226 women and 19 children, Bolvinov added.
Most of those recovered – 447 – were found at what he described as a “mass burial site” in the town of Izium, which Ukrainian forces liberated from Russian occupation in early September. Russian troops were using Izium as a launching pad for attacks south into the Donetsk region.
CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh visited the site in mid-September.
Bolvinov also alleged that more than twenty alleged Russian “torture chambers” have been discovered in the area.
“In almost all major cities and towns, where military units of the Russian army were based, they set up such places of detention of civilians and prisoners of war and tortured them,” he said. said, mentioning one in the town of Pisky-Radkivski.
“This is the 22nd torture chamber that we have found and inspected in the unoccupied territory of the Kharkiv region,” Bolvinov said.
He said the most common torture techniques were electric shocks and severe beatings with sticks and other objects. There have also been cases of fingernails being pulled out and gas masks being used to restrict breathing.
Bolvinov said there are also ongoing criminal charges over allegations of rape.
“We understand that it is very difficult for victims to testify on such facts. However, there are trials that we have recorded, there are appeals from women who have been raped. We have information about the alleged facts of rapes in the torture chambers,” Bolvinov added.
Ukrainian investigations in Kharkiv follow the discovery of serious human rights abuses by Russian forces north of Kyiv in March.
Russia has been accused of a litany of war crimes during its unsuccessful campaign to capture Kyiv in the early months of the war. After withdrawing from Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital, there were reports of Russian forces carrying out summary executions and indiscriminate shelling. Bodies were found shot, tied up and left to rot, some bearing signs of torture. In the nearby town of Borodianka, dead civilians were found strewn in the streets. Houses were reportedly ransacked.
Moscow has always denied that its soldiers were responsible for war crimes. In Bucha, the Kremlin claimed – without evidence – that the atrocities were staged there. However, witnesses who spoke to CNN said the carnage in the city began after it was occupied.
A July report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found that patterns of violent acts by Russian forces in Ukraine qualify as crimes against humanity.