Russians accused of burning bodies at Kherson landfill | Ukraine

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TT he dump on the outskirts of Kherson offers some visible hints here and there, among the piles of rubbish, to what locals and workers say happened in the recent past. Russian flags, uniforms and helmets emerge from the rotting mud, while hundreds of seagulls and dozens of stray dogs scurry about.

As Russia’s occupation of the region came to its last legs last summer, the site, once an everyday place where residents threw their rubbish, became a no-go area, fiercely sealed off by the region’s invading forces, according to Kherson residents . supposed prying eyes.

The reason for the nervous secrecy, several residents and workers at the site told The Guardian, was that the occupiers had a gruesome new goal there: to dump the bodies of their fallen brothers and then burn them.

Residents report seeing Russian open trucks arrive at the site carrying black bags which were then set on fire, filling the air with a large cloud of smoke and a terrifying stench of burning flesh.

They think that the Russians were disposing of the bodies of the soldiers who had died during the heavy fighting of those summer days.

“Every time our army fired on the Russians there, they moved the remains to the dump and burned them,” said Iryna, 40, a resident of Kherson.

Two Russian helmets at the dump in Kherson. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Ukraine’s attempts to gain strength and recapture the southern city began in late June when long-awaited US-made Himars long-range missiles finally reached one of the front lines there. Kiev made good use of it, heavily damaging bridges across the Dnipro, destroying Russian ammunition depots, and attacking enemy artillery and military forces.

It was around this time, residents said, that they first began to fear a new destination for the site.

It is not possible to independently verify the allegations and Ukrainian authorities said they could not comment on whether the allegations are under investigation. The Guardian visited the landfill, located on the northwestern outskirts of the city, five days after Kherson’s liberation and spoke to site officials and several other residents of the city, who backed up the claims made by others over the summer. .

“The Russians drove one Kamaz full of garbage and seem all together and unloaded,” said a garbage collector from Kherson who declined to be named. ‘Do you think someone would bury them? They dumped them and then dumped the garbage all over them, and that’s it.”

Workers on site.
Workers on site. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

He said he did not see whether the bodies were soldiers or civilians. ‘I have not seen it. I’ve said enough. I’m not afraid, I’ve been fighting this war since 2014. Been to Donbas.

“But the less you know, the better you sleep,” he added, referring to a Ukrainian proverb. Fear still lives among the residents who lived under a police state for eight months, in which the Russian authorities did not tolerate any dissent. The price was arrest, or worse, death.

Svitlana Viktorivna, 45, who, along with her husband, Oleksandr, has been taking rubbish to the landfill in their truck for years, said a Russian checkpoint had been set up at the entrance.

Svitlana Viktorivna with her husband, Oleksandr.
Svitlana Viktorivna with her husband, Oleksandr. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

“We weren’t allowed to go near the area of ​​the landfill where they were burning the bodies,” she says. “So let me tell you what it was like: they came here, they left behind some of their guards, and loaded and burned. One day my husband and I arrived at the wrong time. We came here while they were doing their ‘business’ and they hit my husband hard in the face with a bat.”

“I didn’t see the remains,” she adds. “They buried what was left.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said nearly 6,000 soldiers were killed in Ukraine, but the Pentagon estimated in late summer that about 80,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded.

The workers at the dump said the Russians had chosen an area on the farthest side of the dump. For security reasons it is not possible to visit. A truck driver who worked at the dump said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Russians may have dug mines in the area or left unexploded devices behind.

“I heard the story, but I didn’t go that far with my truck to unload garbage. But I can guarantee that whatever they were doing it smelled so bad [rotten] meat,” says the truck driver. “And the smoke… the smoke was thick.”

“Every time our army fired on the Russians, they took the remains to the dump and burned them,” says Iryna, center. Photo: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Residents of a large Soviet-era apartment building across from the landfill say that when the Russians began to burn, a great cloud of smoke had risen, filling the air with an unbearable smell of decay, to the point that it was impossible to breathe.

“I felt sick when I smelled that smoke,” says Olesia Kokorina, 60, who lives on the eighth floor. “And it was scary too, because it smelled like burnt hair, and you know, it also smelled like the dentist when they drill your tooth before you put in a filling.” And the smoke was so thick you couldn’t see the building next door.”

“It just never smelled like this,” says 65-year-old Natalia. “There were a lot of dump trucks and they were all packed with sacks. I don’t know what was in them, but the smell of the smoke from the dump was so bad that we couldn’t even open the balcony door. There were days when you couldn’t breathe because of the smell.”

Some believe that burning the bodies of their own soldiers was the easiest way to get rid of the corpses, since bridges across the Dnipro River, when the Russians were virtually cut off on the west bank, were too fragile to allow trucks to hold on.

Dozens of other Kherson residents confirmed reports from their neighbors, but Ukrainian authorities have so far not spoken. A local official who asked for anonymity said: “We are not interested in the cemeteries of the enemy. What interests us is finding the bodies of Ukrainians tortured, murdered and buried in mass graves here in the Kherson region.”

Ukraine’s security service believes the bodies of thousands of dead Russian soldiers are being removed informally as the Kremlin lists them as “missing in action” in an effort to cover up losses in Ukraine’s war.

An intercepted call from a Russian soldier in May said his comrades had been buried in “a man’s height pit” just outside occupied Donetsk. “There is so much Cargo 200 [military code for dead soldiers] that the mountains appear to be 2 meters high,” he said in the call. “It’s not a morgue, it’s a mess. It’s huge.”

“They just throw them there,” said a Russian soldier in another intercepted conversation. ‘And then later it’s easier to pretend they disappeared without a trace. It’s easier for them to pretend they’re just missing, and that’s it.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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