New satellite images show an expanding mass grave site in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to a report published by the UK-based Centre for Information Resilience (CIR).
Investigators at CIR used satellite images to determine that approximately 1,400 new graves were added at the Mariupol Starokrymske cemetery between 12 May and 29 June.
CIR researchers estimate that five times more new graves are being dug each month than before the Russian invasion.
“Our report illustrates the continuing, extreme pressure on civilian life in Ukraine, especially in occupied areas. Makeshift burials and the growing number of graves around Ukraine, particularly in and around occupied areas, is a stark illustration of the civilian death toll following the Russian invasion,” said Benjamin Strick, the director of investigations at CIR.
Russia announced in late May that it had taken control of Mariupol, after a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of the port city to smoking ruin.
Using images captured by Planet Labs PBC, a private satellite operator, CIR estimated that by 12 May the number of graves at the Mariupol Starokrymske cemetery had increased by 1,700 since the start of the war, and by 29 June another 1,400 graves had been added, bringing the total number dug since the invasion to 3,100.
Images show that during the prewar period between 21 October and 28 March, approximately 1,000 graves were added.
Since Russia captured Mariupol, the city has seen no further fighting, and the roughly 90,000 Ukrainians who remain have been left with little access to electricity, phone, internet, water or healthcare.
CIR said the increase in graves during peacetime could be explained by hundreds of bodies being uncovered under destroyed buildings in the city.
At the end of May, Petro Andryushchenko, a senior aide to Mariupol’s Ukrainian mayor now operating outside the Russian-held city, said about 200 decomposing bodies had been found buried in the basement of a Mariupol high-rise.
In total, Andryushchenko estimated that 22,000 people died in the city in the two months of fighting. One person among several coordinating burials in the city previously told the Guardian that the total could be closer to 50,000.
The UN human rights office says that more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on 24 February. Kyiv says the tru e number is many times higher.
Little information is known about the situation in Mariupol, which has largely been cut off from the outside world with limited mobile phone and internet connections. Images occasionally posted on the Telegram сhannel “Mariupol Now”, which was set up by a Ukrainian volunteer to get information out of the city, show bodies being moved for burial. In one particularly gruesome picture, which the channel said was taken in June, dozens of bodies are seen lying in a parking lot.
The CIR report said the high fatality rate seen in Mariupol during the fighting for the city “correlates with Russian movements and incessant shelling within a reasonable proximity”.
In Manhush, a town near Mariupol, CIR analysed a grave site that was first reported by Ukrainian officials on 21 April, when the Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security in Ukraine announced that locals had found a new 30-metre mass grave.
According to CIR, Planet imagery showed an increase in activity at the grave site from 24 April to 8 May. The Ukrainian Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security alleged that 3,000 to 9,000 Mariupol residents were buried in the mass grave.
The report also analysed a graveyard in Pionerske, a settlement outside Mariupol, which the report said showed the emergence of trenches at grave sites that coincided with newly formed Russian military positions.
“In cases such as Mariupol, the emergence of multiple mass graves nearby such as Pionerske denotes the high fatality rate that correlates with Russian movements and incessant shelling within a reasonable proximity,” the report said, concluding that combined with other open-source evidence, “a clear picture emerges of the Kremlin conducting their campaign in breach of international human rights conventions”.
July 15, 2022 at 01:37PM Pjotr Sauer