Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the northeastern city of Izium has become the latest location where the Russians have left behind mass graves.
Zelenskyy said Thursday that Ukrainian authorities have found a mass burial site near Izium in the recently recaptured Kharkiv region previously occupied by Russian forces.
“Bucha, Mariupol, now, unfortunately, Izium,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly televised address, adding that confirmation would likely come Friday. “Russia leaves death everywhere. And it must be held accountable for it. The world must bring Russia to real responsibility for this war.”
The Associated Press reported that its journalists saw the site in a forest outside Izium on Thursday. A mass grave had a marker saying it contained the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers. It was surrounded by hundreds of individual graves with only crosses to mark them.
TURNING POINT IN UKRAINE WAR:As Russia admits defeat in Kharkiv, Ukraine regains land, confidence
►The U.N. atomic agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution Thursday calling on Russia to immediately end its occupation of the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, where shelling of the facility and nearby areas in recent weeks heightened fears of a possible radiation disaster.
►Superstar guard Stephen Curry of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said his “contacts in the Biden administration rebuffed an offer to help” the efforts to free WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian captivity.
Tensions were rising in Russian villages bordering the Kharkiv region Thursday as the roar of the Ukraine military’s firepower edged closer to the border.
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said residents were wounded when Ukraine shells slammed into one border village, and private houses, farm buildings and power lines in another were partially destroyed. Vyacheslav Gladkov also ordered the evacuation of several villages.
Ukraine has retaken thousands of miles and more than 300 villages and towns this month. The Ukraine Defense Ministry said Russian troops fleeing the Ukraine advance are massing at the Belgorod border, where other Russian troops are keeping them from crossing over.
“They have no communication with the command,” the ministry said in a statement. “There is no supply of food and ammunition.”
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, reporting from Belgorod in recent days, found locals who expressed fear and concern. One schoolteacher said she told students who heard missiles that the sound was only thunder.
Some residents have fled to Belgorod from villages in Ukraine after working for Russian administrations – only to have the Russians abandon the Ukraine towns. Now they fear payback from Ukrainian authorities who view them as traitors.
President Joe Biden will hold separate meetings Friday at the White House with relatives of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan security executive Paul Whelan, the Associated Press reported, citing senior administration officials.
This will be the first in-person contact between the president and family members of the two Americans being held captive in Russia, considered by the U.S. government to be “wrongfully detained.”
The Biden administration said in July that it had made a “substantial proposal” to get them home in a prisoner exchange, but those efforts so far have proved fruitless.
Griner has been held in Russia since February on drug-related charges. She was sentenced last month to nine years in prison after pleading guilty, and has appealed the punishment. Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage-related charges that he and his family say are false. Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, visited Moscow this week to discuss their release.
Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged China has “questions and concerns” about Moscow’s war in Ukraine as he met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Thursday in Uzbekistan.
“We highly appreciate the well-balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis,” said Putin, who took the opportunity to blast the West. “We understand your questions and concerns in this regard.”
Putin’s rare mention of Chinese worries comes as Beijing has been anxious about the impact of volatile oil prices and economic uncertainty resulting from a war that has lasted nearly seven months and has seen Russia experience some embarrassing battlefield setbacks.
China’s economy has already taken a downturn this year in large part because of its strict anti-COVID measures. Russia has dramatically increased energy sales to China in recent months as Europe purchases declined because of sanctions.
Xi did not make any references to Ukraine in his public comments during the meeting on the sidelines of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security alliance created as a counterweight to U.S. influence. The alliance also includes India, Pakistan and four ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia.
Some Russian troops in Kharkiv ‘fled in apparent panic,’ British ministry says
The Russian retreat from the Kharkiv region, where Ukrainian forces have been consolidating their recently recaptured territory, was in some instances orderly but at other times the troops “fled in apparent panic,” the British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update.
In the process, the Russians left behind valuable equipment “essential to enable Russia’s artillery-centric style of warfare,” the ministry said, concluding that such abandonment illustrates “localized breakdowns in command and control.”
Contributing: The Associated Press