A mass grave with more than 440 bodies was discovered in Izium, in northeastern Ukraine, where Russian forces were ousted just days ago, Ukrainian officials said Thursday.
“I can say it is one of the largest burial sites in a big town in liberated [areas] … 440 bodies were buried in one place,” Serhiy Bolvinov, the chief police investigator for Kharkiv region, told Sky News, according to Reuters. “Some died because of artillery fire … some died because of airstrikes.”
A Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed Russian troops from the region last weekend. The Russians had been occupying the city in the Kharkiv region. Ukrainian officials said the troops left behind large amounts of ammunition and equipment, Reuters reported.
Reuters could not immediately verify the Ukrainian claim, and there was no immediate public comment from Russia on the allegation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had visited the recently recaptured city on Wednesday, said the Russians were responsible. He likened the discovery in Izium to a similar event in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, during the early stages of the Russian invasion in late February.
“Russia is leaving death behind it everywhere and must be held responsible,” Zelenskyy said in a video address late Thursday. He said he would release more information about the mass burial site in Izium on Friday.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of perpetrating war crimes there. Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden announced another $600 million arms package for Ukraine, the 21st time the Defense Department has pulled weapons and other equipment off the shelves to deliver to Ukraine, the White House said.
‘Fighting for their future’
Biden used the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to authorize the transfer of excess weapons from U.S. stocks.
The memo does not detail how the money would be used, but The Associated Press reported it would include more of the same types of ammunition and equipment that have helped Ukrainian forces beat back Russian forces in portions of the east and south.
“With admirable grit and determination, the people of Ukraine are defending their homeland and fighting for their future,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “The capabilities we are delivering are carefully calibrated to make the most difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s hand at the negotiating table when the time is right.”
The U.S. has sent about $15.1 billion in security assistance to the Kyiv government since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Earlier Thursday, the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board of governors adopted a resolution demanding that Russia end its occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, diplomats who attended a closed-door meeting on Thursday in Vienna said.
The resolution adopted by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) calls on Russia to “immediately cease all actions against, and at, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. (RFE/RL is a sister network of Voice of America.)
The 35-member board passed the resolution with 26 votes in favor, two against, and seven abstentions, diplomats said, adding that Russia and China voted against it.
The resolution also says the military occupation of the plant significantly increases the risk of a nuclear accident that would endanger the population of Ukraine, neighboring states and the international community.
Russia’s mission to the IAEA said “the Achilles’ heel of this resolution” was that it said nothing about the systematic shelling of the plant.
Some accused of grain theft
Also, the U.S. imposed new economic sanctions on an array of Russians, including some whom it accused of stealing Ukrainian grain, an official who allegedly has directed the deportation of tens of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, and relatives of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
“The United States continues to hold the Russian government to account for its war against Ukraine,” Blinken said.
The top American diplomat said those targeted include major Russian defense entities, key advanced-technology firms that support Russia’s defense industrial base and financial infrastructure, a Russian military intelligence agency and individuals linked to human rights abuses.
Additional sanctions were levied on Kadyrov, who already had been blacklisted by the U.S. since 2017. The new blacklist also targets three of Kadyrov’s wives and three of his adult daughters.
Blinken said Maria Lvova-Belova was sanctioned for her efforts to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
He said the sanctions targeted “key Russia-installed authority figures in Ukrainian territories currently controlled by the Russian military,” along with 31 defense, technology and electronics entities, “to further constrain Russia’s advanced technology industries and their contribution to Russia’s defense industrial base.”
Blinken said those targeted included 22 Russian proxy officials, including five who have overseen the seizure or theft of hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain.
The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets held by those blacklisted and prohibits U.S. individuals or companies from doing business with them.
In Kyiv, Zelenskyy hosted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for talks that she said would include “getting our economies and people closer while Ukraine progresses” toward membership in the European Union.
Ukraine applied to join the EU in late February, days after Russia launched its invasion. The EU granted Ukraine candidacy status in June.
Zelenskyy used part of his latest nightly address to criticize Russian cruise missile strikes on the Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, which he said hit a reservoir dam with “no military value” that hundreds of thousands of civilians depend on.
The Ukrainian leader also said almost the entire Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine was “de-occupied” after Ukrainian forces took back large areas in a counteroffensive in the past two weeks.
RFE/RL contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.