SLAVYANSK: Local authorities say they have uncovered the first mass grave in the former separatist bastion of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine, containing the bodies of at least four civilians they say were executed by pro-Russian rebels.
“We know there are others in the town but we don’t know where. This is the first one we’re excavating,” said Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian interior ministry adviser who presided at a brief ceremony Thursday for townspeople.
Local officials, police and forensic experts oversaw the exhumation and Gerashchenko said that the grave could also contain the remains of some 20 rebel fighters.
Ukrainian forces earlier this month recaptured Slavyansk which had served since April as the main stronghold of the pro-Russian rebellion. The rebels have been accused by rights groups of abducting hundreds of pro-Kiev activists and ordinary citizens in the territory they control.
Meanwhile, a total of 230,000 people have fled their homes in the face of Ukraine’s spiralling conflict, the United Nations refugee agency said yesterday.
UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton said the number of people who have left the conflict zone for other Ukrainian regions was now close to 100,000, while some 130,000 had crossed the border into Russia.