Bulgaria’s FM: ‘Shock and dismay’ at mass graves near Izyum

Bulgaria’s caretaker Foreign Minister Nikolai Milkov said on September 17 that the news of the mass graves near Izyum had left him in “utter shock and dismay”.

The Ukrainian city of Izyum, invaded in April, was used by Russia as a key military hub to supply its forces from the east. Izyum was liberated by Ukrainian forces in their counter-offensive in recent days. Hundreds of corpses were found in mass graves, dating from the time of the Russian occupation, with those exhuming the site saying that they had found evidence of torture on the bodies.

Milkov said in a message on the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry’s Twitter account: “Such atrocities may leave us at a loss for words but we cannot be silent. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes must face justice to the full extent of the law”.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the EU was deeply shocked by the mass graves discovered by Ukrainian authorities after Izyum had been liberated from the invading Russian military.

“We condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms,” Borrell said.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has been leaving a trail of blood and destruction across Ukraine. Thousands of civilians have been already murdered, many more tortured, harassed, sexually assaulted, kidnapped, or forcibly displaced,” he said.

This inhuman behaviour by the Russian forces, in total disregard of international humanitarian law and the Geneva conventions, must stop immediately, Borrell said.

“Russia, its political leadership, and all those involved in the ongoing violations of international law and international humanitarian law in Ukraine will be held accountable. The EU supports every effort in this regard,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking on September 16, said: “This is part, horrifically, of the continuing and ongoing story.

“Whenever we see the Russian tide recede from the parts of Ukraine that it’s occupied, we see what’s left in its wake.  And this latest discovery of apparently 440 mass graves in Izyum is a reminder of that.”

Blinken said that it important that even as the Ukrainians do everything they can to take back the land that’s been seized from them by Russia in this aggression “that at the same time we’re all working to build the evidence and document the atrocities that have been committed”.

“And in many instances, these will amount to war crimes, which I think is the appropriate frame through which to look at this.  That work is going on.”

There needs to be accountability, Blinken said.

“And whether it’s through the Ukrainian process itself, whether it’s through mechanisms at the OSCE, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court – all of these things coming together I think will be very important to making sure that those who’ve committed atrocities and those who ordered them are held accountable,” he said.

(Photo: Bulgarian Foreign Ministry)

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