Ukraine war: Police open criminal investigations into 12,000 killings

Members of an extraction crew work during an exhumation at a mass grave near Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, June 13, 2022.
Members of an extraction crew work during an exhumation at a mass grave near Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, June 13, 2022.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko
By Euronews  with AP, AFP, Reuters

Investigators working to gather more evidence of atrocities uncovered another mass grave near Bucha.

Investigators in Ukraine say they've uncovered another mass grave near Bucha, a town that's become synonymous with allegations of Russian military torture and killings, as police open 12,000 criminal cases into Ukrainian deaths so far..  

Follow Monday's developments as they unfolded in our live blog below:


Monday's key points:

  • Investigators in Ukraine say they've opened 12,000 criminal cases over killings in the war.
  • Russia has now destroyed a bridges out of the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, the regional governor says.  
  • Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv by indiscriminate Russian shelling using widely banned cluster munitions and inherently inaccurate rockets, according to a new report by Amnesty International. 
  • Wikipedia fights Russian order to remove Ukraine war information.
  • France to adjust to 'war economy' and reevaluate its military spending, Macron says.
  • Global nuclear arsenal to grow for first time since Cold War, according to Swedish think tank.
  • Russian forces push Ukrainian army from centre of Sievierodonetsk, after they were believed to be holding a large part of the key Luhansk region city.
  • Bringing all 27 EU member states on the same page on Ukraine’s candidate status may be the biggest challenge yet for Ursula von der Leyen, writes the Financial Times.
  • Russia is solidifying its rule in occupied territories in southern Ukraine, with Russia Day celebrations and the issuing of Russian passports.
  • The British Ministry of Defence says that over the coming months river crossing operations are likely to be amongst the most important determining factors in the course of the war.

That's our live blog wrapping up for Monday evening. 

We're back early Tuesday morning with all the latest developments from Ukraine. 


Police investigating killings of 12,000 Ukrainians in war

Police in Ukraine say they've opened 12,000 criminal cases into the killings of Ukrainians during the war.

On Monday investigators uncovered another mass grave near the town of Bucha, with at least seven bodies in it. The hands of several victims were tied behind their backs. 

Workers in white hazmat suits and wearing masks used shovels to exhume bodies from the soil of the forest, marking each section with small yellow numbered signs on the ground. The bodies, covered in cloth and dirt, attracted flies and were dragged by rope.

“Shots to the knees tell us that people were tortured,” said Andriy Nebytov, head of the Kyiv regional police. “The hands tied behind the back with tape say that people had been held (hostage) for a long time and (enemy forces) tried to get any information from them.”

Since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region at the end of March, the authorities say they have uncovered the bodies of 1,316 people.

One site reporters saw near Bucha on Monday was a mass grave, where the horrors of the killings shocked the world after a regional Russian withdrawal earlier in the war. Reporters on Monday saw a mass grave just behind a trench dug out for a military vehicle. The bodies of seven civilians were retrieved from the mass grave. Two of the bodies were found with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the knees and the head, Nebytov said.

Complete information about the number of bodies in mass graves or elsewhere isn’t known, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the American Jewish Committee on Sunday. He cited the killings of two children who died with their parents in the basement of an apartment building in Mariupol in a Russian bombing.

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust, asked:

“Why is this happening in 2022? This is not the 1940s. How could mass killings, torture, burned cities, and filtration camps set up by the Russian military in the occupied territories resembling Nazi concentration camps come true?”



NATO chief: Sweden has taken 'important steps' over Turkish demands

Sweden has take important steps to meet Turkey's demands for approving Stockholm's NATO membership application, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday during a visit to Sweden.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the alliance last month, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Their applications have faced unexpected opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it deems is Swedish support of Kurdish militants and by a previous decision to withdraw arms export licenses to Turkey.

"I welcome that Sweden has already started to change its counter-terrorism legislation and that Sweden will ensure that the legal framework for arms export will reflect the future status as a NATO member with new commitments to allies," Stoltenberg said during a press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

"These are two important steps to address concerns that Turkey has raised."

Andersson said Sweden had changed its terrorism laws and was in the process of further tightening.

"From the first of July we will also have even stronger legislation when it comes to the fight against terrorism. So here there are no questions about how strongly Sweden sees (on) terrorism and that we are willing to contribute to the fight against terrorism," she said.

Stoltenberg also said the aim was to have Sweden and Finland join NATO "as soon as possible" and that it was inconceivable that NATO allies would not come to Sweden's defence if it were attacked.



German chancellor coy about a possible Ukraine visit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declined to comment Monday on reports that he is planning to visit Ukraine together with his counterparts from France and Italy soon.

Weekly Bild am Sonntag had reported that Scholz would travel to Kyiv with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Premier Mario Draghi Berlin before this month's summit of leaders from the Group of Seven major economies in Germany.

Several other European leaders, Germany's opposition leader and members of Scholz’s own Cabinet have visited Ukraine in recent weeks to express solidarity with the country in the face of Russia's military assault, raising the pressure on the German chancellor to do likewise.

Scholz fobbed off questions about the reported travel plans, saying that he wouldn't go beyond what his spokesperson had told reporters earlier in the day. The spokesperson had declined to discuss the reports.

While Germany has contributed considerable financial and military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion three months ago, Scholz's government has been criticized both at home and abroad for being slower to do so than the United States and some smaller European countries.

Scholz pushed back against such criticism Monday, saying that the advanced howitzers Germany is providing to Ukraine, for example, require extensive training before they can be used.

“I think it would be good if those who express their views on this or that issue spent a moment thinking about it first," he said.



American officials meet for talks on basketball player held in Russia

State Department officials met Monday with representatives of Brittney Griner's WNBA team about the Phoenix Mercury star's monthslong detention in Russia and the Biden administration's efforts to secure her release.

The State Department confirmed the meeting, which involved officials from its specialized office that advocates for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans, but offered no additional details about what was said or who specifically attended.

The administration has previously said that its working to bring Griner and another American, Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, home from Russia.

Griner was detained on 17 February at an airport in Russia after authorities there said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing a cannabis derivative. In May, the State Department reclassified Griner as wrongfully detained and transferred oversight of her case to the State Department Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, or SPEHA.



Mexico's president slams NATO over Ukraine

Mexico’s president slammed NATO’s policy on the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Monday, calling it “immoral.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s did not mention NATO or the United States by name, but his comments were the latest example of his party's ambiguous stance on the invasion.

Mexico has voted to condemn the invasion, but refused to join in sanctions on Russia.

López Obrador said Monday that the allies’ policy was equivalent to saying “I’ll supply the weapons, and you supply the dead. It is immoral.”

“How easy it is to say, ‘Here, I’ll send you this much money for weapons,” Lopez Obrador said. “Couldn't the war in Ukraine have been avoided? Of course it could.”

In March, a half-dozen legislators from López Obrador’s Morena party helped create a congressional “Mexico-Russia Friendship Committee.”

The Morena party said “we respect the freedom of thought of our members” after a youth group apparently affiliated with the party sent an open letter to the Russian ambassador supporting the invasion.



EU leaders talk with Israel about energy imports

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Israel on Monday to discuss energy cooperation, as Israel seeks to export some of its gas to Europe amid the war in Ukraine.

Ms von der Leyen is due to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and then on Tuesday with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the European Commission said, adding that the discussions would focus on "energy cooperation".

Announcements about EU cooperation with Israeli and "other partners in the region" are expected within the next few days. 

Von der Leyen will also meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday. The Palestinian Authority is waiting for millions of euros from the European Union to help curb its budget deficit.

In his first official visit to the Middle East since becoming head of the Italian government in 2021, Mario Draghi will meet Mr Lapid on Monday evening and Prime Ministers Bennett and Shtayyeh on Tuesday.

Mr Draghi's visit should also focus on the war in Ukraine and energy cooperation, according to the Italian press.

Israel is working hard to export some of its offshore gas resources to Europe, which has been seeking to replace Russian fossil fuel purchases since the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime.



Bodies found in pit near Bucha 

Kyiv police say that seven bodies were discovered on Monday in a pit near Bucha - the Ukrainian town where scores of bodies were found after the Russian army withdrew in late March.

"Seven civilians were tortured by the Russians and then cowardly executed with a bullet to the head," Kiev police chief Andrey Nebytov said on Facebook, adding that "several victims had their hands tied and their knees bound."

"The pit was discovered today where Russian servicemen were stationed, near the village of Myrotske," he said.

The head of the Kyiv regional police said he was "currently working on identifying the victims".

After the departure of Russian soldiers from the Kyiv area and the discovery of hundreds of bodies of Ukrainian civilians, Bucha has become a symbol of war crimes that Ukraine blames on Russia. 

Moscow has repeatedly rejected these accusations, denouncing "falsifications" orchestrated by Kyiv with Western support.

At the end of April, the bodies of three men visibly tortured and shot dead were found blindfolded in a pit in Myrotské, according to the Kiev police.



Japanese foundation launches Ukraine fundraising drive

A Japanese foundation launched a fundraising drive on Monday to provide support for language studies, and other needs, of the 1200+ Ukrainian evacuees currently living in Japan. 

The Nippon Foundation said it aims to raise 1 billion yen  through cooperation with the US and Ukrainian ambassadors.

The foundation has already pledged 5 billion yen (€35 million) for the transportation and living costs of Ukrainian evacuees. Japan has so far accepted more than 1,200 war-displaced Ukrainians since Russia invaded in late February.

Sasakawa said he was approached by US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, who asked him to enable ordinary Japanese to help support Ukrainian evacuees.

Japan quickly joined the United States and other major industrialized economies in imposing sanctions on Russia and supporting Ukraine because it fears a similar development in East Asia, where Beijing has become increasingly assertive and has threatened to take military actions against Taiwan if it refuses to unite with China.

Acceptance of the Ukrainian evacuees is unusual for Japan, which has extremely strict refugee and immigration policies despite its own shrinking labor force. Advocates have expressed hope that its support for the Ukrainians will lead to a more lenient immigration policy.

Human rights groups have criticized Japan for neglecting displaced people from other countries such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, who have not received such a warm welcome or a nationally-organized support system.

(Euronews / AFP)

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