Izyum, Ukraine — In a wooded area in Izyum, Russia. Investigators, led by Kharkiv’s chief war crimes prosecutor, are determined to uncover them after the area was liberated from Russian control.
The smell — death on an industrial scale — is overpowering. The work is overwhelming and exhausting for those on the scene.
There are so many graves that CBS News stopped counting after 100. Investigators say they’ve found over 400 shallow graves, and at least one of those is a mass grave containing the remains of at least 17 Ukrainian fighters. But CBS News mostly saw the bodies of civilians.
Hrygory Pryhodko’s wife was among those buried here. She was killed when Russia aimed its rockets at his family home. Pryhodko still can’t believe his wife is gone.
Kharkiv’s chief war crimes prosecutor Oleksander Ilyenkov and investigators exhumed 50 bodies on Friday, some bearing signs of torture. Ilyenkov said they found bodies with rope around their necks and hands.
Anatoli Garagatniy, who was jailed by Russian soldiers for 110 days for filming the invasion, weeped while he told CBS News he thought he’d end up buried here as well.
“They tortured me using electric shocks,” he said. “My nerves are shattered.”
Some of those imprisoned with him did not get out alive. He believes they will be found in this pine forest on the outskirts of Izyum.
It was inthat the world first saw the that Russian troops were capable of. Now Izyum is again showing that that has been declared largely on civilians.