Forensic technicians dig a grave in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

KYIV/KUPIANSK, Ukraine: Ukrainian authorities found a mass grave containing 440 bodies in a northeastern city recaptured from Russian forces.

“Russia is leaving death behind it everywhere and must be held responsible,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address overnight.

The mass grave discovered in the former Russian frontline stronghold of Izium would be the biggest in Europe since the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Ukrainian forces retook Izium after thousands of Russian troops fled the area, abandoning weapons and ammunition.

“For months a rampant terror, violence, torture and mass murders were in the occupied territories,” Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted in English, above a photo of a forest scattered with wooden crosses in fresh muddy ground.

“Anyone else wants to ‘freeze the war’ instead of sending tanks? We have no right to leave people alone with the Evil.” Russia did not immediately comment on the reports of the mass grave. In the past it has denied its troops commit atrocities. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour.

In Kupiansk, a northeastern railway junction city whose partial capture by Kyiv’s forces on Saturday cut Russia’s supply lines and led to the swift collapse of its front lines in the region, small units of Ukrainian troops were securing a nearly deserted ghost city.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden announced a new $600 million arms package for Ukraine, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and artillery rounds. The United States has sent about $15.1 billion in security assistance to Kyiv since Russia’s February 24 launch of attacks.