Russians are accused of burning corpses at the Kherson landfill | Ukraine

tThe site of the landfill on the edge of Kherson offers some telling hints here and there, among the rubbish heaps, of what locals and workers say happened in the recent past. Russian flags, uniforms, and helmets emerge from the putrid mud, while hundreds of seagulls and dozens of stray dogs scurry about.

As the Russian occupation of the region was in full swing over the summer, the site, once an ordinary place where residents dumped their waste, became a no-go area which, according to Kherson residents, was firmly closed off by the invading forces. Presumed prying eyes.

The reason for the tense secrecy, several residents and staff at the site told The Guardian, was that the occupying forces had a horrific new aim: to dump the bodies of their fallen brethren, and then burn them.

Residents reported seeing Russian trucks arrive at the site carrying black bags which were then set on fire, filling the air with a great cloud of smoke and an eerie smell of burning flesh.

They believe that the Russians were disposing of the bodies of their soldiers killed during the fierce fighting on those summer days.

“Every time our army bombs the Russians there, they take the remains to a landfill and burn them,” says Irina, 40, a resident of Kherson.

Two Russian helmets at the Kherson landfill.
Two Russian helmets at the Kherson landfill. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Ukraine’s attempts to gain momentum and recapture the southern city began at the end of June when the long-awaited US HIMARS long-range missiles arrived at one of the fronts there. Kyiv was making good use of it to severely damage the bridges across the Dnieper, destroy Russian ammunition dumps and strike at the enemy’s artillery and troops.

Residents said it was around this time that they began to fear a new use of the site.

The allegations could not be independently verified, and Ukrainian authorities said they could not comment on whether the allegations were under investigation. The Guardian newspaper visited the landfill on the northwestern outskirts of the town five days later Kherson liberation He spoke to the site’s staff as well as several townspeople, who backed up the claims of others over the summer.

The Russians drove A KamAZ “It’s full of rubbish and corpses all together and emptied,” said a garbage collector from Kherson, who asked not to be named. “Do you think someone is going to bury them? They dumped them and then they dumped trash on top of them, and that’s it.”

site workers.
site workers. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

He said he did not see if the bodies were soldiers or civilians. “I haven’t seen. I said enough. I’m not afraid. I’ve been fighting this war since 2014. I was in Donbass.

He added, quoting a Ukrainian saying: “But the less you know, the better you sleep.” Fear lingers among residents who have lived for eight months under a police state, in which the Russian authorities have not tolerated the slightest hint of dissent. The price was arrest, or worse: death.

Svetlana Viktorievna, 45, who, with her husband Oleksandr, has been bringing waste to the landfill for years in their truck, said a Russian checkpoint had been set up at her entrance.

Svetlana Viktorovna with her husband Oleksandr.
Svetlana Viktorovna with her husband Oleksandr. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

“We were not allowed anywhere near the landfill area where they were burning the bodies,” she says. “So let me tell you what it was like: They came here, left some of their military guards, and were discharged and burned. One day my husband and I arrived at the wrong time. We came here while they were doing ‘their business’ and gave my husband a hard blow in the face with a club.” “.

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

The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, roughly said so 6,000 soldiers were killed In Ukraine, but the Pentagon estimated that at the end of the summer About 80,000 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded.

The workers at the landfill said that the Russians had chosen an area on the more isolated side of the landfill. For security reasons, it is not possible to visit. A truck driver working at the landfill said he did not rule out the possibility that the Russians had planted mines in the area or left unexploded explosive devices.

“I heard the story, but I didn’t go that far with my truck to dump the trash. But I can guarantee you that whatever they did, it smelled really bad, like [rotten] Meat,” says the truck driver. “And the smoke… the smoke was thick.”

Irina, center says:
“Every time our army bombs the Russians there, they take the remains to a landfill and burn them,” says Irina, the center. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

Residents of a large Soviet-era apartment building facing the landfill said that as the Russians began to burn, a huge cloud of smoke rose filling the air with such an intolerable stench of decay that it felt impossible to breathe.

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

“It had never smelled like this before,” says Natalia, 65. “There were a lot of dump trucks and they were all covered in bags. I don’t know what was in them, but the stench of smoke in the dump was so bad we couldn’t even open a door.” balcony. There were days when you couldn’t breathe because of the smell.”

Some believe that burning the corpses of their soldiers was the easiest way to dispose of the corpses because the bridges over the Dnipro when the Russians were virtually isolated on the west bank were too weak to carry the trucks.

Dozens of Kherson residents confirmed the veracity of their neighbors’ reports, but the Ukrainian authorities have not yet spoken out. A local official, who asked not to be named, said: “We are not interested in enemy graves. What we are interested in is finding the bodies of Ukrainians, who were tortured, killed and buried in mass graves here in the Kherson region.”

The Ukrainian security services believe that the bodies of thousands of dead Russian soldiers are unofficially disposed of like the Kremlin registered as “missing in action” Trying to cover up its losses in the war in Ukraine.

An intercepted phone call from a Russian soldier in May said his comrades were buried in a ‘man’s height dump’ Just outside occupied Donetsk. “There’s a lot of Cargo 200 [military code for dead soldiers] He said in the call that the mountains of corpses are two meters high. “It’s not a morgue, it’s a dump. It’s huge.”

“They just threw them in there,” said a Russian soldier in another intercepted call. “And then it becomes easier to make it as if they disappeared without a trace. It is easier for them to just pretend they are missing, and that’s it.”

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