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New satellite imagery taken over the Ukrainian city of Mariupol has shown Russian forces digging mass graves, an expert said.

Russia has claimed full control of the strategic port city after Ukrainian defenders at the Azovstal steel plant surrendered after weeks of siege.

US satellite company Planet Labs said its latest imagery has revealed three mass graves on the outskirts of Mariupol.

Military expert Melissa Hanham points to what she said were mass graves in Mariupol, captured on satellite imagery from US company Planet. (CNN)

Russian troops have been accused of committing atrocities in Ukraine including the mass killing of civilians.

US military expert Melissa Hanham, of Stanford University, said the apparent graves shown in imagery were capable of holding thousands of bodies.

“This is fresh brown dirt … they’ve been using bulldozers we’re seeing in earlier imagery to slowly dig those trenches.

“Around just the town of Mariupol there are three mass graves … I would say they are ready for 5000 bodies or more.”

With Russia controlling the city, Ukrainian authorities are likely to face delays in documenting evidence of alleged Russian atrocities in Mariupol, including the bombings of a maternity hospital and a theatre where hundreds of civilians had taken cover.
Mariupol has been devastated by weeks of Russian attacks and local officials said it is facing a humanitarian crisis. (AP)

Satellite images in April showed what appeared to be mass graves just outside Mariupol, where local officials accused Russia of concealing the slaughter by burying up to 9,000 civilians.

An estimated 100,000 of the 450,000 people who resided in Mariupol before the war remain. Many, trapped by Russia’s siege, were left without food, water and electricity.

The Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol warned Saturday the city is facing a health and sanitation “catastrophe” from mass burials in shallow pits across the ruined city as well as the breakdown of sewage systems.

Vadim Boychenko said rains threaten to contaminate water sources as he pressed Russian forces to allow residents to safely leave the city.

There is also mounting concern about Ukrainian soldiers captured after the fall of the Azovstal steel plant.

Thousands of Ukrainian fighters have surrendered in Mariupol and face an uncertain future. (AP)
The Russian Defence Ministry released video of Ukrainian soldiers being detained after announcing that its forces had removed the last holdouts from the Mariupol plant’s extensive underground tunnels.

Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, claimed that 2,439 people were in custody. He said on Russian state TV that the figure includes some foreign nationals, though he did not provide details.

Foreign fighters flock to help Ukraine army

– Reported with CNN, Associated Press

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