Andriy Yermak, the Head of the Office of the Ukrainian President, said on Twitter that a mass burial of soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces had been discovered near the liberated town of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region.
According to reports, as many as 440 bodies are thought to have been buried at the site.
Serhii Bolvinov, senior police investigator of the Kharkiv Oblast, said that all bodies will be exhumed and sent for forensic examination to record evidence of Russian war crimes. Investigators believe the “cemetery” was used to bury both civilians who died from artillery and bomb attacks, as well as other victims. The cause of death of each person buried will be determined by the coming probe.
In his nightly address Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to conduct a thorough and accurate investigation.
"We want the world to know what is really happening and what the Russian occupation has led to. Bucha, Mariupol, now, unfortunately, Izyum ... Russia leaves death everywhere," he said. "It must be held accountable for that."
Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lubinets also has reported that Russia had destroyed 70% of the buildings in Izium, and a torture chamber has been located: "The torture chamber, set up in a basement, next to private houses, shows signs that women and men were beaten in there as a demonstration against the Ukrainian army. Why people who completely controlled the city would do this is unknown.” he wrote. ‘If anyone thought they stopped at Bucha because they were terrified of their cruelty, they weren't.’
At Summit, Xi Chooses Not To Mention Ukraine
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Speaking at a summit in Uzbekistan where he met Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on western countries to stop using "economic selfishness" and sanctions in their policies.
"Our association is of a non-bloc nature, we are assisting in solving the growing energy and food problems in the world, arising as a result of a number of systemic mistakes in the world's leading economies in the field of finance and energy," the Russian president said. "We hope that other participants in economic cooperation will build their policies on the same principles and stop using the tools of protectionism, illegal sanctions and economic selfishness for their own purposes.".
The summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was highly anticipated for the meeting Putin held with Xi, the first since the invasion of Ukraine. Praising China's "balanced position" on the Ukrainian crisis, Putin acknowledged “questions and concerns” that Xi had on the topic.
The Chinese government readout after the meeting did not mention the Ukraine war. It simply said Russia and China would extend "strong mutual support" on core interests. Together, the two would play "a leading role in injecting stability into a world of change and disorder", and Beijing called their partnership "as stable as mountains." Still the use of the words “injecting stability” was seen by some as a rebuke of Putin’s invasion.
Russia Warns U.S. Longer-Range Missile Sales Would Cross “Red Line”
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned the U.S. about providing Ukraine with longer-range missiles, which she said would make Washington “a party to the conflict."
In a briefing, Zakharova said, "If Washington decides to supply longer-range missiles to Kyiv, then it will be crossing a red line.” The Biden administration currently supplies Ukrainian forces with advanced GMLRS rockets which, fired from HIMARS launchers, boast a 80-km range.
Although U.S. officials say Ukraine has promised not to use the missiles to strike Russia, the HIMARS launchers can be used to fire longer-range ATACMS missiles, with a 300+-km range.
U.S. Unveils $600-Million Military Aid Package
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Washington has announced a new $600 million military aid package for Ukraine. A U.S. Defense Department press release said the assistance includes additional ammunition for HIMARS rocket systems, 1,000 precision-guided 155 mm artillery shells, 36,000 105mm shells, and four counter-artillery radars.
"Together with our Allies and partners, we are delivering the arms and equipment that Ukraine’s forces are utilizing so effectively as they continue their successful counter-offensive against Russia’s invasion," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Pope Francis Calls Arming Ukraine “Morally Acceptable”
Pope Francis visits Khazakhstan
Pope Francis said that sending weapons to Ukraine “is a political decision which can be …morally acceptable.”
Speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane on his flight back to Rome on Thursday after visiting Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, the Pope commented on the necessity to keep an open line of communication between Ukraine and Russia: Sometimes you have to carry out dialogue like this. You may have to hold your nose, but it must be done."
Some Ukrainian supporters have complained that Francis, while condemning the violence, has maintained too neutral a posture since Russia’s invasion.
Von Der Leyen: Kyiv’s Bid To Join EU “Well On Track”
EU chief Ursula von der Layen used a press conference in Kyiv with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, to praise Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union. "The accession process is well on track. It's impressive to see the speed, the determination, the preciseness with which you are progressing."
Von Der Leyen then traveled with First Lady Olena Zelenska to Irpin, in the Kyiv region, where they visited school buildings damaged by Russian attacks. In a Telegram message, the First Lady expressed her gratitude toward Western nations, saying the help provided will allow children to go back to school and to "a normal rhythm of life, plans, prospects, dreams — everything that is called 'the future'."
During her speech at the annual State of the EU in Strasbourg on Wednesday, von der Leyen announced that 100 million euro will be allocated to the reconstruction of 74 Ukrainian schools.
Germany Takes Control Of Three Russian-Owned Refineries
Germany’s Ministry of Economy announced on Friday that the country has taken control over three German refineries that are majority-owned by Russia’s Rosneft. The three refineries, one of which supplies 90% of Berlin's fuel, have been placed under the trusteeship of the national industry regulator for a period of six months.
According to Die Welt, the German government said the move was necessary to ensure that the refineries would function beyond the embargo on Russian oil, which comes into place in January 2023 as Rosneft Germany, which accounts for 12% of Germany’s oil processing capacity, has little interest in turning away from Russian oil.
The move comes as Germany is coming to terms with Russia’s decision to halt flows of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, and amid protests against rising energy prices.
Wagner Boss Defends Sending Russian Prisoners To Ukraine
Screenshot of Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group speaking to Russian prisoners
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner group, defended the idea of sending Russian prisoners to Ukraine. This comes after a video was released of the Russian Mercenary boss recruiting Russian prisoners to enlist in the war.
In a statement published on social media after the video went viral, he said those who do not want to send convicts to fight should send their own children instead. He also added that if he were in prison he would "dream of" joining the Wagner group to "pay my debt to the Motherland".
The earlier leaked footage had shown Prigozhin speaking to prisoners in what looked like a Russian prison, saying that if they were to join the war effort for six months, they would be pardoned.
Biden To Meet Families Of Jailed Americans Griner And Whelan
Brittney Griner in prison in Russia
U.S. President Joe Biden is slated Friday to meet the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, two U.S. citizens jailed in Russia.
Biden said the White House meeting is meant to show the families that “they remain front of mind and that his team is working on this every day,” according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. She added that at this stage of the negotiations, Russia did not seem interested in accepting an offer the U.S. made back in July in exchange for the American’s release.
Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, 52, was convicted of espionage in 2020 and is serving a 16-year prison sentence. He and his family have denied the allegations. WNBA star Brittney Griner, 31, was arrested in Moscow in February on drug-related charges. After she pleaded guilty, she was sentenced to 9 years in jail in August, and has appealed the decision. The American government considers both prisoners wrongfully detained.