By Sloane Walsh ’25
For the past 174 days, Russia held the Ukrainian city of Izium under its control. After Ukraine reclaimed the town, Ukrainian soldiers and citizens found over 400 graves in the city’s pine forest.
The Izium graves are just one of many burial sites in reclaimed Ukrainian towns. These massacres are even more unsettling because of the unknown identities of the deceased. Many graves were left with crosses made of two pieces of wood nailed together and labeled only by numbers, lacking names or dates.
Not only are these graves disturbing, but they are also possible evidence of Russian war crimes. Ukrainian officials are trying to prove these claims, which will help Ukraine uncover the foul play in this war.
Civilians estimate that around 1,000 people died in Izium during Russia’s reign in the city. The regional prosecutor of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Olexander Ilyenkov, states that war crimes have been committed in Izium, as evidenced by the writing on select graves. One body of a female Ukrainian civilian even showed signs of torture by rope. Ilyenkov says that many of these deaths were caused by Russian soldiers and Russian Federation air and artillery strikes (BBC News).
Survivors and witnesses of the terrors perpetrated by Russian soldiers have spoken up to news sources worldwide. They tell heartbreaking stories of the torture and pain they endured during the six-month period Russia controlled the now broken city of Izium.
Officials in the city are trying to rebuild the destroyed parts of Izium and help those hurt and significantly affected by the pain Russia has caused. Survivors are attempting to stay hopeful in this process of rebuilding.