Ukrainian officials say they’ve found at least 10 “torture centers” in territory recaptured from Russia in the country’s east. This follows the discovery of a mass grave containing about 450 bodies at a site near Izium.
The Russians occupied the city in the Kharkiv region until a Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed Russian troops from the region last weekend.
“This is just one of the mass burial sites discovered near Izium,” said Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior presidential aide. “In the occupied territories, rampant terror, violence, torture and mass murders have been reigning for months.”
The United Nations said it wants to send a team to investigate the site of the reported mass grave and determine the circumstances of the deaths.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited the recaptured city Wednesday, said the Russians were responsible.
“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 Friday about the mass burial site in Izium.
A regional police official said the victims at the burial site were killed by shooting or in shelling. Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of perpetrating war crimes there.
Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes.
Putin ally concerns
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Friday that now was not a time for war.
Putin has maintained that Russia is not isolated because of its ties with India and China. But at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the Uzbek city of
Samarkand, Modi publicly voiced his concerns about Russian action in Ukraine.
“I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this,” Modi told Putin.
The Russian leader, who pursed his lips and looked down while Modi made his remarks, said Moscow is doing everything it can to end the conflict.
“I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine, the concerns that you constantly express,” Putin said. “We will do everything to stop this as soon as possible.”
On Thursday, Putin acknowledged that Chinese President Xi Jinping also has concerns about the situation in Ukraine and he praised China’s leader for his “balanced” position on the conflict.
Meanwhile, a series of apparent targeted attacks against pro-Russian officials in occupied territories continued with a blast in the Russian-held city of Lugansk. The separatist administration’s top prosecutor and his deputy were killed, pro-Moscow authorities said.
“Today, Prosecutor General Sergei Gorenko and his deputy Ekaterina Steglenko died as a result of a terrorist act,” the press service of the leader of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, said on Telegram. He added that the attack “showed that Kyiv’s regime had crossed all possible limits.”
Two other pro-Moscow officials were killed overnight in the southern port city of Berdyansk, according to pro-Russia local authorities.
There are also reports of intensified firing on the southern front of Kherson, where the Ukrainian army claims it has made gains over the past few days. A Moscow-installed official in the southern Zaporizhzhia region said Ukrainian forces struck Kherson city’s administrative building, killing one and injuring another.
Ukraine has said it will target “collaborators” who work for or with Russian-installed administrations in towns occupied by Russia.
Kyiv says it has taken back more than 7,800 square kilometers (3,000 square miles) of territory occupied by Russia in the east and south of the country since the beginning of September.
NATO’s secretary-general says that while Ukraine’s counteroffensive against invading Russian forces has been very effective, it does not signal the beginning of the end of the war. Jens Stoltenberg warned that nations should prepare for the long haul.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that Ukraine must win the war against Russia. Pelosi spoke at a Group of Seven countries meeting in Berlin. She added that Russia must be held accountable for the conflict.
More US aid
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.
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.
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 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.
Also, the U.S. imposed new economic sanctions on an array of Russians, including some that 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,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony 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.
The United States estimates that Russia has “forcibly deported” up to 1.6 million Ukrainians, including children, to Russia since the Russian invasion in late February. Earlier this month, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the U.N. Security Council that in July alone, more than 1,800 children were taken to Russia from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.