Ukraine: Photos show cemetery expansion near occupied city

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Satellite photos analyzed Tuesday by The Associated Press show a rapid expansion of a cemetery in southern Ukraine in the months after Russian forces seized the port city of Mariupol.

The images from Planet Labs PBC highlight the changes in the cemetery in Staryi Krym, an occupied town located northwest of the city. Comparing images from March 24, when Mariupol was under attack by the Russians, to one taken Oct. 14, months after the city’s fall, shows significant growth to the cemetery’s southern fringes.

An area of some 1.1 square kilometers (less than half a square mile) appears to have been freshly dug over that period in the cemetery’s southwestern corner. Another area of just over half a square kilometer was dug in the southeast corner.

It remains unclear how many people were buried in the cemetery during the roughly seven-month period.

The Center for Information Resilience, a London-based nonprofit that specializes in digital investigations and has monitored the Staryi Krym cemetery, estimated that more than 4,600 graves have been dug since the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The center said it could not estimate the number of bodies interred. The BBC’s Panorama program first reported on the center’s analysis.

The suffering of Mariupol’s residents and the stiff fight Ukrainian forces put up from inside a huge steel plant to keep the seaside city from ending up in Russian hands became early touchstones in the war.

During a nearly three-month siege, a maternity hospital and a theater serving as a shelter were among the sites reduced to ruins. When they finally surrendered, the Ukrainian troops were taken prisoner by the Russians.

The British Defense Ministry reported Tuesday that Russia has started building defensive structures around the occupied city, including what were likely pyramid-shaped anti-tank structures known as “dragon’s teeth” between Mariupol and Staryi Krym.

The ministry did not give the source of its information, but it said Russian forces were “making a significant effort” to fortify their lines throughout occupied Ukrainian territories, “likely to forestall any rapid Ukrainian advances in the event of breakthroughs.”

A Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in late August has picked up momentum in the country’s south in recent weeks.


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