Ukraine mass grave belongs to ‘same school of terror’ as Serbia: ex-politician

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A former senior Kosovo diplomat compares a mass burial site allegedly uncovered by Ukrainian forces to atrocities committed by Serbian authorities during the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

In an ominous post on Twitter on Thursday, Petrit Selimi, Kosovo’s former foreign minister, drew parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the massacres of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces. The message followed an announcement by Ukrainian authorities that a mass grave had been discovered near a town recently retaken from Russia, the latest indication of possible war crimes in the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a national address on Thursday that the site was discovered in Izyum, in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, where the Ukrainian army recently repelled Russian forces in its ongoing counteroffensive. .

A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of a tank on the outskirts of Izyum in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine September 14, 2022. Ukrainian forces reportedly discovered a mass grave in Izyum.
JUAN BARRETO//Getty Images

“We want the world to know what is really happening and what the Russian occupation has led to. Bucha, Mariupol, now, unfortunately, Izyum,” Zelensky said, referring to other alleged Russian war crime sites. against civilians. “Russia leaves death everywhere.”

After Russian troops withdrew from Kyiv earlier in the conflict, authorities reportedly discovered a mass burial site of civilians in the nearby town of Bucha, which was previously occupied by Russians. While this site is under investigation for potential war crimes, Russia has denied any wrongdoing.

Zelensky said more information will become available as Ukrainian and international journalists will be allowed access to Izyum.

Serhii Bolvinov, chief investigator of the Kharkiv region police, told Sky News that the mass burial site in Izyum contained around 440 individual makeshift graves, which he called “one of the most great burials in a liberated city”.

Victims died from gunfire, artillery fire, airstrikes and mine explosions, Bolvinov said. All bodies would be exhumed and subjected to forensic examination to gather evidence of possible Russian war crimes, he said.

Selimi, who served as Kosovo’s foreign minister in 2016 before becoming an MP from 2010, said in his tweet that the mass graves discovered after his country’s liberation had shocked the world.

“The Serbian government even had a morbid operation of stealing the corpses of Albanian civilians and reburying them or dumping the bodies in the lakes,” Selimi said. “The same will happen now. It’s the same school of terror.”

In 2007, the United Nations International Court of Justice found that the Serbian government did not directly commit genocide during the war between 1992 and 1995. However, the court determined that Serbia authorized the ethnic killings and did not had not punished the atrocities.

Prior to the NATO intervention, reports emerged that ethnic Albanians were being targeted by Serbs in a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”. A UN war crimes prosecutor said in 1999 that forensic teams had unearthed 195 sites where massacre victims were allegedly buried, finding 2,108 bodies.

Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was arrested in 2001 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Before he died in prison, a war crimes tribunal charged him and his collaborators with the illegal deportation of 740,000 Kosovo Albanians and the murder of at least 340 people.

Newsweek contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.

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