Ukrainian officials and satellite images point to evidence of mass graves outside Mariupol

A satellite image shows a suspected mass grave in the village of Manhush, outside the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, on April 3. (2022 Maxar Technologies)

Ukrainian officials on Tuesday identified the location of apparent mass graves outside the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol – claims supported by the release of satellite images collected and analyzed by Maxar Technologies.

In an article published on Telegram on Thursday, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, wrote: “As a result of a long search and identification of the places of mass burials of the deceased inhabitants of Mariupol, we have established the fact of the arrangement and mass burial of the dead inhabitants of Mariupol in the village of Manhush.”

Andriushchenko – who is not in Mariupol but served as a clearinghouse inside the besieged city – posted the coordinates on Telegram, saying Russian forces had dug several mass graves, each measuring around 30 meters (about 100 feet), in Manhush, a town about 12 miles (about 19 kilometers) west of Mariupol.

“The trucks are carrying the bodies of the dead, in fact, just dumping them on the embankment,” he said. “This is direct evidence of war crimes and attempts to cover them up.”

Maxar on Tuesday released an analysis of satellite imagery appearing to show evidence of new graves at a site on the northwest edge of Manhush.

A glimpse of a cemetery and the expansion of graves is seen on March 23.
A glimpse of a cemetery and the expansion of graves is seen on March 23. (2022 Maxar Technologies)

“According to recent media reports, Russian soldiers took the bodies of people killed in Mariupol to this location,” Maxar said in his analysis. “A review of our satellite imagery from mid-March to mid-April indicates that expansion of the new set of tombs began between March 23-26, 2022 and has continued to expand over the past two weeks. The graves are lined up in four sections of linear rows (measuring approximately 85 meters per section) and contain over 200 new graves.”

Vadym Boichenko, the mayor of Mariupol, also claimed on Thursday that Russian forces had buried bodies in mass graves in Manhush, while Ukrainian officials said up to 20,000 people had died in weeks of shelling.

“More than 20,000 civilians – women, children, the elderly – have died on the streets of our city due to enemy artillery and aircraft,” he said. “And it’s also [based] on the testimony of the heads of our municipal services, who have seen it. And sadly, we saw that the bodies of deceased residents of Mariupol began to disappear from the streets of our city.”

Boichenko said the mass graves were on a bypass road near a cemetery.

“And there is a field near the cemetery, and in this field there are ditches, 30 meters (about 90 feet) long, and there they bury them, bring the bodies of the dead by trucks and throw them into these ditches,” he said.

CNN cannot independently verify claims that the Russians dumped bodies in mass graves there, and a firm death toll after weeks of heavy shelling of Mariupol is not available. Journalists in Mariupol documented the hasty burial of civilians in the besieged city, and footage surfaced on social media showing bodies apparently left to be recovered in the city.

Evidence of mass graves outside Mariupol surfaced when Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the city ‘liberated’ by Russian forces, although he also called off an attempt to storm the city. Azovstal steelworks, the last stronghold of the Ukrainian defenders inside the city, where civilians also sheltered.

“Unfortunately, it is not possible today to evacuate civilians from Azovstal,” Boichenko said. “Because we are asking for a stable ceasefire. Somewhere we need a day to be able to take in these residents who have been hiding there for 57 days straight, and they are being bombed, bombed and bombed. “

Boichenko estimated that there were around 100,000 people left in Mariupol.

Christi C. Elwood