Ukrainian officials on Tuesday identified the location of apparent mass graves outside the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol – claims bolstered by the publication of satellite images collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies.
In a post Thursday on Telegram, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote: “As a result of a long search and identification of places of mass burial of dead Mariupol residents, we established the fact of 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 clearinghouse for information from inside the besieged city – posted the coordinates on Telegram, saying Russian forces had dug several mass graves, each measuring about 30 meters (around 100 feet), in Manhush, a town around 12 miles (about 19 kilometers) to the west of Mariupol.
“Trucks carry in the bodies of the dead, in fact, simply dumping them on the embankment,” he said. “This is direct evidence of war crimes and attempts to cover them up.”
Maxar published analysis of satellite imagery Tuesday appearing to show evidence of new graves at a site on the northwestern edge of Manhush.
“According to recent media reports, Russian soldiers have been taking the bodies of people killed in Mariupol to this location,” Maxar said in its analysis. “A review of our satellite images from mid-March through mid-April indicate that the expansion of the new set of graves began between March 23-26, 2022 and has continued to expand over the past couple of weeks. The graves are aligned four sections of linear rows (measuring approximately 85 meters per section) and contain more than 200 new graves. ”
Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, also alleged Thursday that Russian forces have buried bodies in mass graves in Manhush, amid claims by Ukrainian officials that as many as 20,000 people have died in weeks of bombardment.
“More than 20,000 civilians – women, children, elderly people – died on the streets of our city from enemy artillery, aircraft,” he said. “And this is also: [based] on the evidence of the heads of our municipal services, who saw it. And unfortunately, we have seen that the bodies of dead Mariupol residents have begun to disappear from the streets of our city. ”
Boichenko said the mass graves were off a bypass 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 by trucks and throw them into these ditches,” he said.
CNN can not independently verify claims that Russians have disposed of bodies in mass graves at that location, and a firm death toll following weeks of heavy bombardment of Mariupol is not available. 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 for collection in the city.
Evidence of mass graves outside Mariupol surfaced as Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the “liberation” of the city by Russian forces, although he also called off an attempt to storm the Azovstal steel plant, the final bastion of Ukrainian defenders inside the city, where civilians have also sheltered.
“Unfortunately, it is not possible today to evacuate civilians from Azovstal,” Boichenko said. “Because we are asking for a stable ceasefire. Somewhere we need one day to be able to accommodate those residents who have been hiding there for 57 days in a row, and they are being bombed, bombed and bombed.”
Boichenko estimated that around 100,000 people remain in Mariupol.