Satellite images show 'mass graves' near Mariupol as mayor says Russia 'hiding crimes'

New satellite imagery appears to show the expansion of mass graves between March 19-30 Credit: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Fresh satellite imagery appears to reveal a mass grave close to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol as its mayor accuses Russian troops of burying civilians to cover up "military crimes".

The mass grave site was captured on the north-western edge of Manhush, about 12 miles west of Mariupol, and adjacent to an existing village cemetery, according to Maxar Technologies.

The graves are aligned in four sections of linear rows, measuring about 85 metres per section, and contain more than 200 new graves.

Maxar said the images, taken between mid-March and mid-April, show the expansion of the new set of graves began between March 23-26. It added that the graves have continued to expand over the past couple of weeks.

Satellite imagery taken on March 19 shows an overview of the cemetery and the early expansion of graves Credit: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies.
An overview of cemetery and expansion of new graves captured on March 30 Credit: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

The images support accusations by Mariupol's mayor Vadym Boychenko, who claimed Russian troops dug huge trenches near Manhush and buried hundreds of killed civilians.

Mr Boychenko said “the bodies started disappearing from the streets of the city” and that the Russians were “hiding the trace of their crimes and using mass graves as one of the instruments for that.”

“They are taking the bodies of the dead residents of Mariupol in trucks and throw them into those trenches,” he said during an online briefing.

President Vladimir Putin earlier claimed victory in the battle for the strategic port of Mariupol, where Ukrainian officials estimate more than 20,000 civilians have been killed.

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo spoke to the few dozen who finally managed to escape Mariupol on what might have been one of the last evacuation convoys

He called off an order for Russian forces to storm the Azovstal giant steel plant where the city's last standing Ukrainian troops - along with some civilians - were holed up in a maze of underground passages.

Instead, the Russian leader told defence minister Sergei Shoigu the Azovstal steelworks should be blocked off “so that not even a fly comes through”.

But Mayor Boychenko rejected any notion that Mariupol had fallen into Russian hands.

“The city was, is and remains Ukrainian,” he declared. “Today our brave warriors, our heroes, are defending our city.”

Has Russia's second attempt to seize Mariupol been more successful than the first? Rohit Kachroo reports live from Zaporizhzhia

It came as US President Joe Biden warned the war is at a "critical point" and pledged to send a further $800 million (about £614 million) in weapons and ammunition to Ukraine in the coming days, calling it the "frontlines of freedom".

Mr Biden said he will ask Congress next week to approve billions more dollars in aid for Ukraine because the assistance package passed last month is now “almost exhausted.”

Despite Putin’s claims, the US president said "there is no evidence yet that Mariupol is completely fallen.”

Ukrainian forces and civilians are encircled in a massive steel plant in the city and Mr Biden called on Russia to provide humanitarian corridors so that civilians may flee safely.

A Treasury official said the United States will also provide an additional $500 million (around £384 million) in financial assistance to Ukraine to help it sustain salaries, pensions and other government schemes.

Due to the different type of theatre of battle, President Biden is looking at sending a different kind of weaponry to Ukraine, explains ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry announced that it has barred US Vice President Kamala Harris, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and 27 other prominent Americans from entering the country.

In a statement posted on its website on Thursday, the ministry said it was targeting top defence and justice officials, the CEOs of LinkedIn and Bank of America top executives, and journalists shaping what it referred to as “the Russophobic narrative” prevailing in US public debate.

The move came as a response to “ever-widening anti-Russian sanctions” brought on by the Biden administration, the ministry said.

However, Britain on Thursday ramped up its sanctions against the Kremlin, with the Foreign Office announcing it is targeting several Russian generals and military commanders for “committing atrocities on the frontline.”

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Lieutenant Col. Azatbek Omurbekov, the so-called “Butcher of Bucha”, is among those targeted. Officials say he commanded forces that occupied the town outside Kyiv where reports of war crimes and civilian killings have surfaced.

The number of displaced people within Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began has risen to 7.7 million, the U.N. migration agency has said.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) said more than half of the internally displaced people, mostly in the east of the country, reported a lack of some food products. It said their most pressing problems include cash and access to financial support, followed by medicines.