- Ross Burley
Mass graves after the Russian invasion: Bucha, Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kherson
By Eman El-Sherbiny and Benjamin den Braber
The Eyes on Russia team has been monitoring the expansion of several mass graves and
gravesites in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
This is the first report of its kind to review, update and bring together data on burial sites around Ukraine. It provides a comprehensive, visual overview of the death toll resulting from Russian military action in Ukraine.
Many of the identified graves have been only viewable remotely, with access to many of the sites largely restricted due to the areas being under Russian occupation, making analysis of satellite imagery all the more important.
The Eyes on Russia team started to closely examine many of these sites after Russian forces left the town of Bucha. Grim stories emerged of the unlawful treatment and killing of civilians, as well as mass graves.
Updated satellite imagery contained in this report shows the scale of grave sites and burials that have occurred in or near areas under the control of Russian forces. The report identifies graves in areas that have been under extreme bombardment from Russian firing positions.
Analysing the available details of six grave sites, this research specifically explores the following areas: Chernihiv, Kherson, Bucha, Mariupol’s Starokrymske Cemetery, Vynohradne and Manhush.
This report shows a significant expansion, possibly doubling, of the Mariupol cemetery since
previously reported on by some news media. The research adds to the growing body of evidence documenting Russia’s targeting of civilians as part of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
CIR seeks to share this research with policymakers and justice and accountability bodies, as well as the public at large to help hold the perpetrators accountable.
Benjamin Strick, Director of Investigations at Centre for Information Resilience said:
“In early April our investigation revealed for the first time the extent of mass graves in Yalivshchyna forest, near Chernihiv, following Russia’s heavy bombardment in the area. After revelations of war crimes in Bucha, our investigations team started looking at open source information from around the country at all large-scale burial sites. This report is the result of that work.
“Open source information can give unprecedented reach behind the front-lines of the war in Ukraine and into areas occupied by Kremlin forces. Our investigators cross-referenced a huge amount of satellite imagery against geolocated data from social media and elsewhere. We estimated and distinguished preparatory graves to those with headstones or crosses. Estimates at some sites were difficult because sites were obscured behind trees, however new satellite imagery helps us to update our understanding of what is going on.
“Our report illustrates the continuing, extreme pressure on civilian life in Ukraine - especially in occupied areas. Makeshift burials and the growing number of graves around Ukraine - particularly in and around occupied areas - is a stark illustration of the civilian death toll following the Russian invasion.”