‘Taped hands, gun wounds’: RT witnesses exhumation of mass graves in E. Ukraine
Mass graves with bodies bearing signs of violent death, and grieving relatives of those who were identified: That was the blood-curdling scene witnessed by an RT crew in a village near the city of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.
Four bodies were found in two shell craters behind a burned-out coal mine near the village of Nyzhnia Krynka, 35 kilometers northeast of Donetsk. RT’s Maria Finoshina reported from the burial site.
“All the facilities you can see here were abandoned a long time ago. It’s a very remote area and apparently those who did this didn't want these corpses to be found,” Finoshina reported.
Among the four victims was 21-year-old Nikita Kolomiytsev, a local resident, whose grieving mother arrived at the scene of mass graves to identify her son.
“I couldn’t stand for him to be killed and thrown like a dog somewhere – I had to come and identify him,” Nikita's mother, Galina, told RT.
Galina said she fled to central Ukraine to take her younger 16-year-old son out of harm's way, but she felt she’d “failed to protect” her elder son.
“The Ukrainian army took [Nikita]away… my husband went there and told them – take me instead of my son. But they said they had taken him for a further prisoner swap.”
Galina was waiting for him to be exchanged and brought home, but he never returned to his mother.
“No one exchanged anybody for anybody. They just shot them dead here outside the village and threw them into the ground... like dogs,” she added, sobbing.
According to Konstantin Gerasimenko, chief medical examiner, “all four victims – they are all male – have multiple gunshot wounds to head and body.”
“Their hands were taped behind their backs. Some of them were only in their underwear,” he said.
RT’s crew also visited another burial area that the OSCE monitors discovered, located just 3 kilometers from the first site.
Initially the grave looked like a mound, with five names written on a plaque on top of it, all in Russian. The officials were not able to reach the area as it was mined. They have only started the exhumation now.
One of those who took part in the exhumation told RT that they have found five bodies, which have already started decomposing.
The plaque on top of the grave had four names on it, and a space for a fifth name, which was blank, with only a number there.
All four names had the victims’ dates of birth and death. The dates of death were all the same – August 27. An inscription on the plague reads: “Died for Putin’s lies.”
RT tried to find any eyewitnesses who could throw light on the incident.
“I know nothing,” said a local resident, “Ukraine troops came here and they asked us to leave and we fled… we just came back recently.”
According to Evgeniy, another local resident, “a camouflaged car with people from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) inside came here – and all of them were gunned down at short range.”
The discovery of the graves was made on Sept. 23 by DNR forces who were responding to information given to them by locals, who said that the mass graves had been dug by Ukrainian government forces.
Two days before the bodies were discovered, Ukraine National Guard forces were stationed in the area, the locals reported.
On Friday, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine confirmed that militia forces found three unmarked graves allegedly containing many bodies. Two of them were located in the Komunar coal mine, near the village of Nyzhnia Krynka, and one inside the village.
When asked about the discovery, the president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Ilkka Kanerva, told RT that "of course the OSCE monitoring mission in there must be also very concerned about that."
On Wednesday, the head of Russia’s presidential human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, called on the authorities to do everything to “ensure an independent international probe” and “let international human rights activists and journalists” gain access to the site in Eastern Ukraine’s embattled Donetsk region.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow will pursue an open and independent inquiry into the killings of people found in mass graves in the east of Ukraine.
"Already in the last [OSCE] report, which was presented in Vienna, the first signs confirmed that the victims were civilians, and that they were shot at close range, and before that they could have been abused. All this worries us very much. We cannot blame anyone until we see the results of the investigation,” Lavrov said.