Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the world to respond to Russian atrocities after a mass grave site was found in the recently retaken town of Izyum.
Around 440 bodies were discovered at the site in the Kharkiv region, which was recently recaptured from Moscow.
In his late-night address to the nation, Zelenskyy said it was too early to know the exact number of people buried there and that investigations are ongoing, but said the dead included children and adults, civilians and military alike .
“Tortured, shot, killed by shelling,” said Zelenskyy.
“Even whole families are buried there: mother, father and daughter.”
He added that there is clear evidence of “torture and degrading treatment of people”.
Russia was forced to withdraw its forces from much of northeastern Ukraine last week after a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive.
In its latest update on the situation in Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said it was unclear whether Russia’s front-line forces have sufficient reserves or morale to withstand another concerted Ukrainian attack in eastern parts of the country.
Analysts at British Defense Intelligence believe that after a successful counteroffensive by Ukrainians, Moscow established a defensive line between the Oskil River and the town of Svatove, forcing the Kremlin to cede parts of the territory.
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The zone is considered important in part because it lies on the border of the Luhansk region, which is part of the Donbass that Russia is striving to “liberate” as one of its key war goals.
Any substantial loss of territory here would “clearly undermine” Putin’s strategy for the conflict, the experts say.
Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko said the recapture of Izyum was a “major strategic win” in military terms.
“Ukraine is also making confident progress in the north-east and south-east of the country,” she told Sky News.
“We are making progress for ourselves, but also to bring back long-standing peace to the continent.”
When asked what she thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin could do next, she said: “No one can be in the mind of this power-mad leader.”
She added: “Whatever it is, we need to be prepared for it – we need to be prepared for it as Ukrainians, you need to be prepared for it in the UK.
“And indeed, people around the world must be prepared that something absolutely horrible, another crazy move, could happen at any time.
“For this, Ukrainians must have weapons to protect themselves, ammunition in the necessary quantity to protect themselves.
“And the West must be ready to use all the sanctions against Russia that are in the book.”
Meanwhile, Putin has vowed that Russia’s plans will not change after Ukraine’s recent counter-offensive.
In his first public statements on the matter, the Russian President said that Moscow could step up its attacks on Ukraine’s vital infrastructure if Ukrainian forces attack facilities in Russia.
Speaking to reporters after attending a Shanghai summit
Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Putin said the “liberation” of Ukraine’s entire eastern Donbass region remains Russia’s top military goal and he sees no need to revise it.
“We are in no hurry,” the Russian leader said, adding that Moscow used only volunteer soldiers to fight in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s attempt to regain control of several Russian-held towns and villages was the biggest military setback for Moscow since its forces were forced to withdraw from areas near the capital earlier in the war.
Putin said: “Let’s see how it develops and how it ends.”
He said Ukraine has tried to attack civilian infrastructure in Russia and “we have responded with restraint so far.”
“If the situation develops like this, our reaction will become more serious,” added the Russian leader.
“Just recently, Russian forces have launched some effective attacks,” he said in an apparent reference to Russian attacks earlier this week on power plants in northern Ukraine and a dam in the south.
“Let’s think of these as warning strikes.”