Pjotr Sauer reports for us from Zahaltsy:
Since the start of the war, the bodies of more than 1,000 civilians have been discovered in the Bucha district, many hastily buried in dozens of shallow mass graves. Ukrainian police believe that about 650 people were shot in what they have described as executions.
On Tuesday, local police exhumed the remains of one – believed to be those of a local man – as the aftermath of the Russian occupation continues to haunt the towns and villages around Ukraine’s capital, nearly three months after the invading troops withdrew.
The body was found next to a police checkpoint used by Russian soldiers during their occupation, leading officials to believe that he was killed by the soldiers manning the post.
All signs indicate that this man was murdered by Russian soldiers. We have found more bodies around checkpoints in this area,” said Vyacheslav Tsyliuryk, the head of the local police unit. “We believe this person was heading towards his home when he was shot.”
As two men started digging up the earth, the outlines of the corpse began to emerge, and then Tsyliuryk pointed to a gunshot wound in the man’s chest as the likely cause of death.
The dead man was wearing a thick winter jacket, which Tsyliuryk said suggested that the killing had taken place in late March or early April, shortly before the Russians left Kyiv. Zahaltsy, like other towns and villages nearby, was occupied for about a month before the Russian forces’ retreat.
Read more of Pjotr Sauer’s report from Zahaltsy: Ukrainians still finding bodies in former occupied villages outside Kyiv
The military authorities of the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic have posted to Telegram to claim that in the last two hours the Kievsky district of Donetsk has been shelled sixty times by Ukrainian forces. It specifically states that the munitions used are 155mm shells “supplied by Nato countries”. The claims have not been independently verified.
Maksym Kozytskyi, governor of Lviv, has posted to Telegram to say that there were no air raid warnings over his region of western Ukraine overnight. He stated that 225 displaced people arrived in Lviv on evacuation trains yesterday.
Casualties to the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR), one of Russias proxies in eastern Ukraine, may have amounted to about 55% of the original strength, British intelligence has claimed.
According to the latest UK ministry of defence report:
Heavy shelling continues as Russia pushes to envelop the Sievierodonetsk area via Izium in the north and Popasna in the south. Russia is highly likely preparing to attempt to deploy a large number of reserve units to the Donbas.
It goes on to discuss the casualty situation, stating:
The Russian authorities have not released the overall number of military casualties in Ukraine since 25 March. However, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) publishes casualty figures for DPR forces. As of 16 June, the DPR acknowledged 2128 military personnel killed in action, and 8,897 wounded, since the start of 2022.
The DPR casualty rate is equivalent to around 55% of its original force, which highlights the extraordinary attrition Russian and pro-Russian forces are suffering in the Donbas.
It is highly likely that DPR forces are equipped with outdated weapons and equipment. On both sides, the ability to generate and deploy reserve units to the front is likely becoming increasingly critical to the outcome of the war.
For further context, the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces claims to have killed about 34,100 Russian soldiers in total between 24 February and 21 June. The claims have not been independently verified.
A Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier who was accompanying him were “coldly executed” when they were killed in the first weeks of Russia’s invasion, according to a recently published investigation from Reporters Without Borders.
The pair were reportedly searching Russian-occupied woodlands for the photographer’s missing image-taking drone, the agency said citing its findings from an investigation into their deaths.
The press freedom group said it went back to the spot where the bodies of Maks Levin and serviceman Oleksiy Chernyshov were found 1 April in woods north of the capital, Kyiv. The group said it counted 14 bullet holes in the burned hulk of their car still at the scene.
The report, published on Wednesday, reads:
The evidence gathered by RSF indicates that the Ukrainian photo-journalist Maks Levin and the friend who was with him were executed in cold blood by Russian forces, probably after being interrogated and tortured, on the day they went missing, 13 March 2022.
The photos of the crime scene, the evidence RSF found there and RSF’s observations attest to the fact that the journalist Maks Levin and his friend Oleksiy Chernyshov were executed.
Levin was very probably shot by one of the bullets that RSF found at the crime scene.
Material evidence was found of a Russian presence very close to the crime scene including food package, plastic cutlery which could still contain DNA traces.”
Some of Levin and Chernyshov’s belongings, including the soldier’s ID papers and parts of his bulletproof vest and the photographer’s helmet, were also recovered, it said.
A Ukrainian team with metal detectors also uncovered a bullet buried in the soil where Levin’s body had lain, it said. The group said that finding suggests “he was probably killed with one, perhaps two bullets fired at close range when he was already on the ground.”
A jerrycan for gasoline was also found close to where Chernyshov’s burned body had been recovered, it added.
Reporters Without Borders said its findings “show that the two men were doubtless coldly executed.”
Levin and Chernyshov were last heard from on 13 March. A GPS tracker in their vehicle gave their last position, in woods north of Kyiv, the group said.
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is set to mark the day when Hitler’s Nazi Germany forces invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941.
The date is significant in Russia and remembered as the ‘Day of Remembrance and Sorrow’.
Putin will reportedly lay flowers to honour the dead on Wednesday.
To mark the anniversary, the Russian defence ministry released documents dating back to the start of the second world war purporting to show Germany intended to claim the Soviet army was bombing churches and cemeteries to justify its invasion.
“Just as nowadays, in 1941, the Nazis prepared provocations in advance to discredit our state,” Russia’s defence ministry said.
June 22 is one of the most tragic dates in Russian history – Memorial and Mourning Day. On this day 81 years ago, the Great Patriotic War began.
A divine liturgy and a memorial service will be held in the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces.”
Satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies, dated 21 June, appear to show damage inflicted on Snake Island after Ukraine claimed it launched an attack on the small southern territory on Tuesday.
A destroyed tower in the southern end of the island and burnt areas on the northern end can be observed.
Russia said it repelled a Ukrainian attempt to retake the island in the Black Sea captured by Russian forces on the first day of the invasion.
Ukraine’s army has said it had launched airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, causing “significant losses” to Russian forces.
In a video address posted to Facebook, the military’s southern operational command said it had used “aimed strikes with the use of various forces” on the island.
The command added:
The island of Zmiinyi was dealt a concentrated blow with the use of various forces and methods of destruction.”
Russian troops stationed on the island took “significant losses”
The military operation continues and requires information silence until it is over.
Moscow claimed it repelled the “mad” attack which saw Ukraine “plan to carry out massive air and artillery fire… before landing and capturing” the island.
In an update posted to its Telegram channel, Russia’s ministry of defence said:
On June 20 at 5am, the Kyiv regime undertook another mad attempt to take possession of Snake Island.
This is another fake ‘victory’ of the Ukrainian military.
The ministry said 15 Ukrainian attack and reconnaissance drones took part in the airstrike while missile launchers and howitzers fired at the island, with 13 drones reportedly shot down.
Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you as we continue to report all the latest news from Ukraine.
Here are all the other major developments as of 8am in Kyiv.
- The military situation for Ukraine’s defenders in the eastern Donbas is “extremely difficult”, officials have said. There are 568 civilians thought to be holed up in Sievierodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant, as Russian attacks intensify in an effort to capture Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said Lysychansk was getting shelled “en masse”.
- Russian forces have captured several settlements near Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk. The head of the Sievierodonetsk district military administration, Roman Vlasenko, said the frontline village of Toshkivka had not been under Ukrainian control since Monday. Russian forces also reportedly captured Pidlisne and Mala Dolyna, located south-west of Sievierodonetsk, and saw success near the Hirske settlement in Luhansk.
- At least 15 civilians were killed in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region by Russian shelling on Tuesday, according to the regional governor, Oleh Synegubov.
- Mass mobilisation is “about to happen” in Russia with the Kremlin recruiting people in poorer regions to fight in Ukraine, according to western officials. Officials also said there was “more chatter” about Vladimir Putin’s health and “more speculation” about who would replace him in Russia. However, there did not appear to be an “immediate threat” to the Russian president’s position from the elite or the general population, they said.
- The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, visited Ukraine on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s war crimes, a justice department official said. Garland met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, and announced a war crimes accountability team to identify and prosecute perpetrators. “There is no hiding place for war criminals,” Garland said.
- German self-propelled howitzers have arrived in Ukraine in the first delivery of heavy weapons promised by Berlin. “We have replenishment!” Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, announced. “The German Panzerhaubitze 2000 with trained Ukrainian crews joined the Ukrainian artillery family.”
- Turkey should be cautious about delivering more weapons to Ukraine, the head of Turkey’s weapons production agency said. The remarks by Ismail Demir to the Wall Street Journal show how Ankara is increasingly playing both sides of the war. Turkish-made drones have played a critical role in Kyiv’s defence.
- Turkey’s military delegation will travel to Russia this week to discuss a possible safe sea corridor in the Black Sea to export Ukrainian grain, according to Turkish presidency sources. A meeting between Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations would be held in Istanbul in the coming weeks, possibly with the participation of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the UN’s secretary general, António Guterres, the sources said.
- European countries are united in their support for granting Ukraine the status of EU member candidate, Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister has said. Jean Asselborn told reporters: “We are working towards the point where we tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends.”
- The UK government is “determined” to impose further sanctions on Russia and will continue to do so until Moscow fully withdraws from Ukraine, Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has said. She told parliament that she would be travelling to Turkey on Wednesday to discuss options to help get grain out of Odesa. Boris Johnson also warned of the need to resist “growing fatigue” around the war and said any concessions to Vladimir Putin would be a “disaster”.
- Estonia summoned the Russian ambassador on Tuesday to protest about an “extremely serious” violation of its airspace by a Russian helicopter. The Estonian foreign ministry said the helicopter flew over a point in the south-east without permission on 18 June.