Ukrainian officials on Tuesday identified the location of apparent mass graves outside the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol – claims supported by the release of satellite imagery collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies.
In a post on Thursday on Telegram, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, wrote: “As a result of a long search and identification of mass burial sites for dead Mariupol residents, we have established the fact of the arrangement and mass burial of the dead Mariupol residents in the village of Manhush .”
Andriushchenko – who is not in Mariupol but has served as a clearing house for information from inside the besieged city – posted the coordinates on Telegram and said Russian forces had dug several mass graves in Manhush, each about 30 meters (about 100 feet) measures. a town about 12 miles (about 19 kilometers) west of Mariupol.
“Trucks transport the bodies of the dead by simply dumping them on the embankment,” he said. “This is direct evidence of war crimes and attempts to cover them up.”
Maxar on Tuesday released an analysis of satellite imagery that appears to show evidence of new graves at a site on the north-western edge of Manhush.
“According to recent media reports, Russian soldiers brought the bodies of people killed in Mariupol to this place,” Maxar said in his analysis. “A review of our satellite imagery from mid-March to mid-April shows that the expansion of the new tombs began between March 23 and 26, 2022 and has continued to expand in recent weeks. The tombs are aligned in four sections of linear rows (approximately 85 meters long per section) and contain more than 200 new tombs.
Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, also claimed on Thursday that Russian forces buried bodies in mass graves in Manhush, while Ukrainian officials claimed up to 20,000 people died in weeks of bombing.
“More than 20,000 civilians – women, children, the elderly – died on the streets of our city at the hands of enemy artillery and aircraft,” he said. “And that is too [based] on the statements of the heads of our municipal services who have seen it. And unfortunately we have seen that the bodies of the dead residents of Mariupol have started to disappear from the streets of our city.”
Boichenko said the mass graves were off a ring road near a cemetery.
“And there is a field near the cemetery, and in this field there are ditches, 30 meters (about 90 feet) long, and there they bury them, bring the bodies of the dead in trucks and throw them in these ditches”, said he called.
CNN cannot independently verify claims that Russians dumped bodies in mass graves at the site, and an exact death toll after weeks of heavy bombardment of Mariupol is unavailable. Journalists in Mariupol have documented the hasty burial of civilians in the besieged city, and images have surfaced on social media showing bodies apparently left in the city for collection.
Evidence of mass graves outside of Mariupol emerged as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the city’s “liberation” by Russian forces, though he also called off an attempt to storm the Azovstal Steel Plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian defenders inside the city, where civilians were also recovered.
“Unfortunately, today it is not possible to evacuate civilians from Azovstal,” said Boichenko. “Because we demand a stable ceasefire. Somewhere we need a day to accommodate those residents who have been hiding there for 57 days in a row and have been bombed, bombed and bombed.”
Boichenko estimates that there are still about 100,000 people in Mariupol.