New satellite images reveal ‘mass graves’ near Mariupol as Russia ‘attempts to storm’ steel plant



Russia’s troops have buried more than 200 people in a mass grave near Mariupol in southern Ukraine, satellite imagery allegedly shows, as Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the battle for the besieged city.

The site of the mass graves lies adjacent to an existing cemetery in the village Manhush, 12 miles (20 kilometers) west of the port city on the coast of the Black Sea.

Maxar Technologies, a private US company that captured the satellite pictures, suggested that the expansion of the mass grave began around 23-26 March.

Mariupol Major Vadym Boychenko has said Russian troops are burying Ukrainian civilians killed in Mr Putin’s invasion to cover up “military crimes”.

He claimed Russians buried the bodies of hundreds of civilians, adding that the corpses had “started disappearing from the streets”.

“They are taking the bodies of the dead residents of Mariupol in trucks and throwing them into those trenches,” Mr Boychenko said during an online briefing.

Satellite image purports to show mass graves in Manhush, near Mariupol

(Maxar/Reuters)

As many as 10,000 civilians have been killed by Russian forces in Mariupol since the invasion began on 24 February, Ukrainian officials have claimed.

However, it is feared that the figure could double. Ukraine has accused Russia of carrying out war crimes in the city, although Moscow has denied targeting civilians.

Ukraine’s military has claimed that Russian forces had made attempts to storm the Mariupol seaport and the city’s Azovstal steel plant.

But Russia insists that Mr Putin told his defense minister Sergei Shoigu not to storm the Azovstal plant in order to save the lives of Russian troops.

Moscow claims that he instead said that the plant, which is the main remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the city, should be blocked.

Mr Putin reportedly told Mr Shoigu to order his forces to block the factory, in the bombarded city, “so that not even a fly comes through”.

Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky has said that most of Mariupol is under Russian control but that Ukrainian troops have remained in a part of the city.

The remainder of Ukrainian troops in Mariupol are now holed up in the Azovstal steel plant from where they are fighting against the attempted Russian siege.

Smoke rises above Azovstal steelworks, in Mariupol

(Mariupol city council via Reuters)

The US State Department said it understands that Ukrainian forces still hold ground in Mariupol, and that Mr Putin’s claim to have taken the city is false.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told a news briefing: “We understand that Ukraine’s forces continue to hold their ground and there is every reason to believe that President Putin and his defense minister’s show for the media that we saw in recent hours is even yet more disinformation from their well-worn playbook.”

US president Joe Biden has approved a further $800m (£600m) in military aid for Ukraine, including heavy artillery, as the country faces a new Russian offensive in its Donbas region in the east.

Mr Zelensky, in a video address to the Portuguese parliament, pleaded with the west to send more weapons and impose further economic sanctions on Moscow.

He said: “This is just the first step [for Russia] to gain control of eastern Europe, to destroy democracy in Ukraine.

“Your people, who in a few days will be celebrating the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution that liberated you from dictatorship, know perfectly well what we are feeling.”

The Ukrainian president added: “We are fighting not only for our independence, but for our survival, for our people so that they do not get killed, tortured and raped.”

Around 120,000 civilians are blocked from leaving the besieged city of Mariupol as of Thursday, Mr Zelensky said.

Around 200 people were waiting to be evacuated but no buses had arrived as of mid-afternoon, according to Mr Boychenko.

The Mariupol mayor said a small convoy of buses had evacuated about 80 people on Wednesday, and was now headed for the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is under Ukrainian control.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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