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Friday 22 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
ABACA/PA Images Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visits the de-occupied city of Izyum, Kharkiv region
# russian invasion
Zelenskyy says mass graves discovered in reclaimed Izyum as EU chief visits Ukraine
A regional official said that some people were shot, while others were killed in shelling.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 15th 2022, 10:37 PM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy has said that a mass grave had been found in Izyum after the town was retaken from Russian forces.

“We want the world to know what the Russian occupation has caused,” he said, without giving details on the number of bodies found or their cause of death.

“We need to have more clear and verified information tomorrow.”

A regional police official, Sergei Botvinov, told Sky News that a burial site with around 440 graves had been discovered in Izyum.

Some of the dead were shot, others died in shelling, he added.

Zelenskyy compared Izyum to the cities of Bucha and Mariupol which have become symbols of atrocities during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia leaves death behind everywhere. And she must respond. The world must really hold Russia responsible for this war. We are going to do everything we can to do that,” he said.

It comes after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Ukraine earlier today, saying that the bloc would continue to support Kyiv for “as long as it takes”.

Her trip coincided with a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his increasingly close ally Chinese leader Xi Jinping in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan, where the men hailed their strategic ties in defiance of the West.

Von der Leyen said that the visit was her third to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, but this one was different.

ukrainian-president-zelenskyy-bilateral-meeting-with-european-commission-president-ursula-von-der-leyen Sarsenov Daniiar / Ukraine Preside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Sarsenov Daniiar / Ukraine Preside / Ukraine Preside

“We will never be able to match the sacrifice that the Ukrainians are making,” she told reporters during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“But what we can tell you is that you’ll have your European friends by your side as long as it takes,” she said.

Von der Leyen also said in an interview that she wants Putin to face the International Criminal Court over war crimes in Ukraine.

“That Putin must lose this war and must face up to his actions, that is important to me,” she told the TV channel of German news outlet Bild.

Upon her arrival in Ukraine, Von der Leyen said her discussions with the country’s leaders would be about “getting our economies and people closer.”

Kyiv gained EU candidacy status in June at the same time as ex-Soviet Moldova, which borders Ukraine and like its neighbour has had Russian troops stationed in an eastern breakaway region.

Zelenskyy told the same press conference that his country wants to join the European single market ahead of a decision on whether to grant Kyiv full EU membership.

‘Sanctions are here to stay’

The historic candidacy vote angered Moscow, which has tried to retain political and military influence in both countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

EU countries have staunchly supported Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February by hitting Russia with economic penalties.

Many members of the bloc have supplied Kyiv with advanced weapons that have helped Ukrainian forces in recent weeks recapture swathes of territory.

Germany’s defence minister pledged more weapons earlier today, saying Berlin will provide armoured vehicles and rocket launch systems but not the battle tanks sought by Ukraine.

Von der Leyen said just ahead of her trip that the successive waves of EU sanctions against Russia would remain and that Europeans must keep their resolve against Moscow.

“I want to make it very clear, the sanctions are here to stay,” she told the European Parliament.

The Kremlin maintains that Russia has weathered the economic penalties and Moscow has responded by reducing or halting entirely gas flows to European countries.

With winter fast approaching, this has forced the EU to source alternative supplies, agree plans to cut consumption and roll out financial support in the face of skyrocketing prices.

Ukrainian energy facilities, including Zaporizhzhia — Europe’s biggest atomic plant — have been hit by Russian strikes.

occupied-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-back-on-grid Dmytro Smolyenko The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine Dmytro Smolyenko

The UN nuclear agency asked Russia to withdraw its troops from Zaporizhzhia, diplomats said.

Putin praises Xi’s stance

Ukraine’s forces have posted slow but steady gains in the southern Kherson region near the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian presidency said today that intense fighting was ongoing around that southern front, adding that the military situation “remains extremely difficult.”

Local officials in the region around Zelenskyy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih reported fresh Russian strikes earlier today after attacks damaged a dam and saw dozens of homes flooded.

In the eastern Donetsk region, which has been partially controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014, fresh shelling killed two civilians and left another 13 wounded.

In the Ukrainian-held Donetsk town of Bakhmut, AFP journalists said streets were deserted and the sound of nearby artillery was audible in the town’s centre.

Flames were still licking a residential building hit by Russian strikes overnight and plumes of thick smoke were rising as firefighters battled the blaze.

At the meeting in Uzbekistan, Putin blasted attempts to create a “unipolar world” and praised China’s stance on the conflict.

“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis,” Putin told Xi.

Beijing has not explicitly endorsed Moscow’s invasion but it has steadily built economic and strategic ties with Russia over the six months of the war.

© AFP 2022

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