The Czech presidency of the European Union (EU) called on Saturday to create an international court to judge war crimesafter the discovery of hundreds of bodies near Izium, a city in eastern Ukraine recently released from russian forces.
“In the 21st century, such attacks against the civilian population are unthinkable and hateful,” Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, whose country now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said on Twitter on Saturday.
“We are in favor of all war criminals being punished,” he added. I ask that a special international court be created quickly to punish the crime of aggression,” Lipavsky insisted.
This call came after the discovery of some 450 graves near Izium.
“99% of the exhumed bodies showed signs of violent death,” regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said on Friday. “There are several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs and one person is buried with a rope around his neck. Obviously these people were tortured and executed,” he said on Telegram.
Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmitro Lubinets noted on Telegram that “probably more than 1,000 Ukrainian citizens were tortured and killed in the liberated territories of the Kharkov region.”
According to the head of the Ukrainian police, Igor Klimenko, 10 alleged “torture centers” would also have been discovered in towns reconquered from the Russians in the Kharkov region, two of them in the city of Balakliya.
The Ukrainian president promised, in a video posted on Telegram, a “terribly fair punishment” to those responsible for the alleged crimes committed in Izium.
The macabre discovery sparked a wave of outrage in the West, just over five months after the Russian army, expelled from the kyiv region, left behind hundreds of civilian bodies, many of which showed signs of torture, and summary executions, especially in the town of Bucha.
“The world must react”
“The world must react to all this. Russia has repeated in Izium what it did in Bucha,” Zelensky said in a video message on Friday night, welcoming the dispatch of a UN team to the ground to join the Ukrainian investigation.
The United States and the European Union also showed their outrage and blamed Russia for what happened.
“This inhuman behavior of the Russian forces […] It must cease immediately,” the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said in a statement.
On Thursday, before the discovery of the graves, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be brought to international justice for war crimes.
US President Joe Biden has warned his Russian counterpart against the use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.
“It would change the course of the war in a way not seen since World War II,” the US president warned during an interview with CBS.
On the ground, where Western-armed Ukrainian forces, having held off the Russian advance in the east of the country, seized thousands of square kilometers in a lightning counter-offensive in the northeast, fighting and shelling continue.
In the Kharkov region, an 11-year-old girl was killed by Russian missile fire in the town of Chuiguiv, Governor Oleg Sinegubov said.
“Russian invaders bombed” a thermal power plant on Saturday morning in Mikolaivka, said Pavlo Kirilenko, governor of the Donetsk (eastern) region on Telegram.
He also indicated that firefighters were still fighting the fire stemming from the attack, which had caused drinking water cuts. He previously announced two dead in bombings.
In the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region, “the Russians fired Grad (multiple rocket launchers) and heavy artillery all night on the Nikopol district,” said local governor Valentin Reznitchenko. And in the south, one person was killed in Dmitrivka by Russian shelling, according to regional governor Vitali Kim.
Moscow’s military denied the bombing of civilians, saying they were “high-precision” strikes on military targets.
In kyiv, hundreds of people said goodbye to the former dancer and pedagogue Oleksandr Chapoval, who enlisted to fight the Russians and died in the east of the country on September 12.