Ukrainian investigators have uncovered more than 440 graves in a forest near Izyum in eastern Ukraine.

Some of the bodies recovered had their hands tied. Others showed signs of having suffered violence.

Here is what we know about what investigators have found:

– What have they found at the site? –

President Volodymyr Zelensky last week announced the discovery of a “mass grave” in Izyum after it was recaptured from the Russians.

At one burial site, more than 440 graves dating between March and September 2022 were discovered.

Investigators have exhumed the bodies of at least 17 Ukrainian soldiers from one. A cross over the grave bore the inscription: “Ukrainian army, 17 people. Izyum morgue.”

The authorities say there are more than 440 tombs because the last number entered on the crosses is 445, AFP noted.


Some of the crosses are made from varnished wood and also carry names and dates.

Investigators say about 100 bodies have been exhumed.

– Tortured or killed in combat? –

Ukrainian officials suspect that some of the dead were tortured by Russian forces during their occupation of the northeast Kharkiv region.

At least two of the bodies recovered were found with their hands tied, AFP journalists said.

One of the two “had their hands tied, their jaw broken and two stab wounds in the back”, a member of the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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The remains have been identified as that of a pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighter, the official added.

Civilians who died during fighting in March for control of the city have also been exhumed.

Among them were three members of the family of Volodymyr Kolesnyk, killed during the bombing of their building on March 9.

His aunt, cousin and cousin’s wife were all killed and taken to the cemetery, Kolesnyk, a resident of Izyum, told AFP.

– What stage has the investigation reached? –

Around 10 teams — each of around four people, including representatives of the prosecutor’s office — were at work on Sunday. Emergency service workers in white overalls were handling the actual exhumations.


Kharkiv prosecutor Yevgen Sokolov, who is leading the investigation, said he did not have an exact number for those thought to have suffered violent deaths.

Of the bodies so far exhumed, he said “most have wounds from shelling and explosions”.

Others had suffered “injuries from sharp objects and showed signs of violent death”, he said.

Sokolov said one combatant had had “his hands tied behind his back” and another was found with “rope around the neck and broken limbs”.

He also said a body was exhumed “with multiple stab wounds”.

“At this point we don’t have bodies with bullets in their skulls but there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

If the weather remained mild, he estimated it would take another week to finish exhuming the bodies.

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