Russia's retreat from eastern Ukraine in April revealed what many said was evidence of war crimes. Now, the pattern is repeating in southern Ukraine with the retreat of Russian soldiers from Kherson, the New York Times reports, describing "mounting evidence of atrocities" there. In the village of Pravdyne on Monday, locals helped war crimes investigators exhume the bodies of a teenage girl and six male security guards for an agricultural company, who were allegedly murdered by Russian forces. From a mass grave in which the men were buried emerged "a skull with a bullet hole" and "a pair of arms tied at the wrists with rope," per the Times.
Locals say one of the men had befriended the girl, who was badly abused by her stepfather. Fearing trouble, the stepfather falsely told Russian forces that the men were spies, the villagers say. A neighbor, Anatoliy Sikoza, describes finding the bodies after an explosion at the home where the men were staying in April. He says the girl looked to have been strangled, while the men had their hands tied behind their backs. "I could tell it wasn’t the explosion that killed them," he adds. Officials say mass graves have also been found in the cities of Izium and Lyman. They've also described finding torture chambers.
The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine has catalogued 49,471 alleged war crimes and crimes of aggression since the Russian invasion began, per Global News. "Every city that the Ukrainian army liberates, we find there places of mass atrocities, mass graves, torture rooms," says Oleg Nikolenko, a rep for Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Ministry, adding it may amount to "genocide." Locals say Russian forces are continuing to target civilians near Kherson, using snipers to shoot at those who go to collect water from the Dnipro River, per the Times. In withdrawing across the river two weeks ago, "the Russians blew up power stations, taking down electricity, running water, heat, and phone service," the outlet reports.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed Russia was trying to "freeze and starve Ukrainians" in a "barbaric" brutalization, per CNN. Meanwhile, the European Union proposed setting up a specialized court, backed by the United Nations, to investigate and prosecute crimes of aggression, per Reuters. A day earlier, the Group of Seven agreed to set up a network to coordinate investigations. German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said "judicial examination of the atrocities committed in Ukraine will take years, perhaps even decades," per Reuters. But "we will persist for as long as it takes." (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)