Izium, the Ukrainian enclave belonging to the Kharkov Oblast and recently reclaimed by the Ukrainian army, has become a tragic scene. Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky has claimed that at least 440 bodies have been found in a large mass grave.
In a public statement, Zelensky said that "we want the world to know what is really happening and what has caused the Russian invasion. Bucha, Mariupol, and now, unfortunately, Izium... Russia leaves a trail of death in its wake. The world must demand that Russia take responsibility for this war. We will do everything we can to make it do so".
As in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where civilians were massacred, the Ukrainian authorities have found evidence of "signs of torture" among the bodies of the victims. Ukraine's deputy interior minister, Yevhen Enin, told the media that after the departure of Russian troops, the bodies in the graves showed "traces of violent death and torture", "including ears cut off the bodies. This is only the beginning".
For the time being, Ukrainian prosecutors are already investigating the events, which are already being considered as alleged war crimes. Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said that "prosecutors and investigators are already at work, uncovering new Russian war crimes. Murder, torture, destruction, as we saw in Bucha".
He said that 23 mobile groups of prosecutors, police, sappers, security service workers and others had already been set up, as well as "five thematic groups" that will investigate "facts of torture of local residents and search for Russian Federation barracks or command posts in Kharkov".
The task now for these groups is to gather "all possible evidence and document it in accordance with international standards" to be used in Ukrainian and international courts to prove "war crimes" allegedly committed by the Russian military.
This is a marathon effort as the Ukrainian army has managed to liberate approximately 8,500 square kilometres, 388 localities and 150,000 people, according to Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maylar.
In addition to the graves found, at least 47 other bodies have been located in the rubble of a collapsed building, allegedly caused by Russian bombs. According to the advisor to the Ukrainian interior minister, it is expected that once the final clearance has been carried out, the death toll could be close to 1,000, which, he said, would be "twice as many as in Bucha".
In addition, the Ukrainian authorities have listed more than 3,800 missiles that the Russian army is said to have launched towards Ukraine, although they have warned that "no missile will bring Russia any closer to its target".
During Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Izium became from 1 April the main enclave from which the Russian army launched its assault on the remaining troops in the part of the Donbas still under Ukrainian control. Although the local authorities managed to evacuate part of the population during the Russian offensive, at least 100,000 citizens were reportedly trapped.
After the Ukrainian army managed to liberate a large part of Russian-held territory in the east and south of the country, the Russians withdrew east of the Oskil river, 16 kilometres from Izium, dealing a heavy blow to Russia and its army.
After discovering the new killings in Izium, Zelensky said he was "very shocked" but said he was not surprised by the damage. He later thanked the paratroopers who helped liberate the town and attended the raising of the Ukrainian flag in front of the collapsed building of what was once the town hall.