‘Explosions everywhere’ as Ukraine forces recapture village

HRAKOVE: Power poles overturned, cables strewn across the ground; houses and roads dotted with craters, the village of Grakove in the east Ukraine bears the scars of Ukraine’s bitter counterattack.
“It was scary,” said the 61-year-old Anatoli Vasilievrecalls the battle this week when Ukrainian troops recaptured Grakove from the Russians.
“There were bombings and explosions everywhere.”
Vasiliev stood in front of the local church, where the bell was damaged by a bullet.
Some Russian soldiers “got the phone, but I tried to keep my phone by hiding it so I could contact my family,” he said.
The Ukrainians have claimed considerable territory in the east Kharkiv land.
Chairperson Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday 30 towns and cities had been recaptured there.
Among the debris scattered across Grakove and in front of the houses were still dogs and cats living in search of leftovers.
Only about 30 of the village’s 800 pre-war residents remain.
The road leading to Grakove from Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, a regional hub, is lined with the skeletons of cars destroyed in explosions or crushed by tanks.
Armed mines were scattered along the roadside, waiting to be picked up. A tractor-trailer carrying a captured Russian military vehicle.
Going in the opposite direction were two armored vehicles moving troops ahead. Cannons rang out in the distance.
In the village, police and a team from the Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office are exhuming the bodies of two men in their 30s.
Officials here suspect a war crime: the remains show signs of torture and execution.
Villagers Sergiy Lutsay told AFP in Russian soldiers forced him to bury the body under the muzzle of a gun.
“They came to my house. I stayed with my 70-year-old father,” he said.
“I was afraid they would threaten him. They told me to come and dig a hole.”
This happened shortly after the Russian invasion began on February 24, he said.
An official from the prosecutor’s office said the bodies would be sent for medical examination to determine the cause of death.
Sergiy BolvinovDeputy Chief of Police of Kharkiv Region, said Lutsay told them the victim “had a wound on the back of their head and their ears were cut off”.
Lutsay did not confirm the details with journalists.
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of a series of war crimes in outer towns and villages Kyiv which its forces recaptured in March.
Ukraine returned to the territory when Moscow withdrew its forces after a failed attempt to capture the capital at the beginning of the invasion.
“This is not the only evidence of atrocities committed by the Russians,” Bolvinov said.
“There are two other locations like this one in the village. We’ll investigate them.”
Police warned journalists not to get lost in the streets or investigate abandoned buildings as demining work is still underway.

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