Satellite imagery has revealed what looks like a mass grave outside the port city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, which might be 20 times larger than another mass grave that was discovered earlier this month in Bucha and could contain as many as 9,000 bodies, according to officials from Mariupol, which has witnessed the worst fighting since Russia’s invasion.
The Mariupol City Council has posted satellite images on Telegram that point on the mass gravesite located just 12 miles west of Mariupol, which is now largely controlled by Russian troops along the northwestern edge of Manhush and is believed to contain as many as 9,000 bodies, NPR reported.
"The biggest war crime of the 21st century was committed in Mariupol. This is the new Babyn Yar. Then Hitler killed Jews, Roma and Slavs. And now Putin is destroying Ukrainians. He has already killed tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol. And this requires a strong reaction from the entire civilized world. Anything needs to stop the genocide," said Mayor Vadym Boychenko on Telegram.
Russian troops collected corpses from the streets of Mariupol, transported them to the nearby village of Manhush on trucks and secretly threw them into the mass grave in a field next to the settlement’s old cemetery, Boichenko added, according to The Guardian.
“The invaders are concealing evidence of their crimes. The cemetery is located near a petrol station to the left side of a circular road. The Russians have dug huge trenches 30 meters wide. They chuck people in,” he continued.
The images, which appeared to match the site, were released by a U.S. satellite imagery company, Maxar Technologies.
In a statement, Maxar Technologies said the images were taken from mid-March through mid-April. They show that over 200 new graves started appearing toward the end of March and expanded in April, according to NBC News.
The graves are aligned in four sections of linear rows, each about 280 feet long, the company said.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Saturday that the country will continue to try to evacuate civilians from Mariupol.
"Today we will again try to evacuate women, children and the elderly," Vereshchuk said on Telegram, Agence France-Presse reported. "If everything happens as planned, we will start the evacuation around noon.”
Evacuation attempts have failed due to a lack of agreement from the Russian side.
Earlier this month, some 280 bodies were found in mass graves in Bucha, a town northwest of Kyiv, according to NPR.
While Russia has denied targeting civilians, it’s estimated that at least 2,435 civilians have been killed and 2,946 have been injured since Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24. Among those killed were 184 children, according to the United Nations.
“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the U.N. said, adding that the actual number of casualties is likely to be “considerably higher.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently urged President Joe Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, which would allow the U.S. to adopt the most aggressive sanctions.
Sources told The Times (U.K.) that Biden was keeping the move under consideration, and observers believe Russia’s history under President Putin might fulfill the criteria for the designation.
In an interview with CNN last week, Zelensky warned that Putin could use nuclear or chemical weapons against Ukraine.
“Not only me … all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,” Zelensky told CNN. “Chemical weapons … they could do it, for them the life of the people [is] nothing. … We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think.”
More than 280 priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church and over 400 ministers of Evangelical churches in Russia have called for reconciliation and an immediate end to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.