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Apparent mass graves near Mariupol expanding in size, satellite photos show

Click to play video: 'Ukrainians trapped in Mariupol may have only hours left'
Ukrainians trapped in Mariupol may have only hours left
WATCH: Ukrainians trapped in Mariupol may have only hours left – Apr 20, 2022

New satellite images appear to show an expanding mass grave site near the destroyed Ukrainian city of Mariupol, an American space technology company says.

The photos, taken between late March and early April by Maxar, show the expansion of an apparent mass grave site on the northwestern edge of Manhush, which is about 20 kilometres west of Mariupol, a city on the brink of Russian capture.

Maxar imagery shows an apparent mass grave site in Manhush, Ukraine on April 3. Maxar says the graves are aligned in four sections of linear rows and contain more than 200 new graves. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

The reported mass grave site is adjacent to an existing cemetery in the village, Maxar said. The company reviewed the images and discovered a new set of what appeared to be graves emerging between March 23 and 26. The site has continued to expand in recent weeks, the company added.

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The apparent grave site is aligned in four sections of linear rows, measuring roughly 85 metres per section, and contains more than 200 new burial spots, Maxar said.

An apparent mass grave site in Manhush, Ukraine is shown on March 30. Maxar said it documented the expansion of this site between late March and early April. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

The company, which has provided imagery throughout the war, also documented the existence of a mass grave site in Bucha, a suburb of the capital Kyiv.

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The world expressed outrage over the discovery of what local officials said were bodies of civilians who appeared to have been killed at close range.

Maxar imagery shows a reported mass grave site in Manhush, Ukraine, expanding on March 26. Maxar said recent media reports highlight Russian troops taking the bodies of people killed in nearby Mariupol to this location. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Mariupol, located in Ukraine’s southeast, has been home to some of the worst reported atrocities in the war so far, including the bombing of a theatre sheltering civilians and the destruction of a maternity and children’s hospital.

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Russia has denied attacking civilians in the campaign, which began on Feb. 24 after President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into the country. It has also rejected all accusations of war crimes, and western leaders have promised to hold Moscow to account.

A Maxar satellite photo taken March 23 appears to show a mass grave site in Manhush, Ukraine, just west of Mariupol. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Russia was not successful in its initial attempt to overrun Kyiv and topple the government, facing stiff resistance in the war. It has now shifted gears to focus on the country’s eastern Donbas region, home to two separatist movements that Russia has supported since 2014 when it annexed the Crimea peninsula.

On Thursday, Putin claimed victory in Mariupol but U.S. President Joe Biden shot that down as “questionable,” given that a pocket of Ukrainian resistance fighters remain held up just off the coast.

A general overview of a cemetery and the early expansion of what appears to be graves in Manhush, Ukraine, on March 19. Maxar technologies says the village is roughly 20 kilometres west of the besieged city of Mariupol. Satellite image © 2022 Maxar Technologies

“First of all, it’s questionable whether he does control Mariupol. One thing for sure we know about Mariupol, he should allow humanitarian corridors to let people on that steel mill and other places buried under rubble to get out,” Biden told reporters in Washington.

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“That’s what any head of state would do in such a circumstance, and so there is no evidence yet Mariupol has completely fallen.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that Russia controls most of the city, but Ukrainian troops remain in a part of it.

The fall of Mariupol could be a strategic victory for Putin, potentially allowing for an unfettered connection between Crimea and the mainland.

— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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