Ukrainian authorities are collecting the bodies of Russian soldiers from recently liberated towns and loading them into refrigerated rail cars in hopes of exchanging them for captured Ukrainian troops.
In Kharkiv, where Russian forces have been pushed back across the border, 60 bodies have been recovered, according to a report on Tuesday. The bodies are being identified through DNA analysis as well as by examining tattoos, credit cards, and documents carried by the deceased. Some of the dead soldiers show signs that they were intentionally killed by members of their own units or committed suicide, according to the report.
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“We are gathering all the documents, all the credit cards, anything which would help us identify the body,” Anton Ivannikov, captain of the military-civil cooperation branch of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told Reuters.
“In the future, this will tell us which soldier, which brigade was in this region for further exchange,” he said.
Ukraine hopes the recovered bodies can be used as part of prisoner exchanges or exchanges for Ukrainian bodies. The bodies of soldiers related to high-ranking Russian officials could be especially wanted by the Kremlin.
Not all the recovered bodies appear to have suffered combat-related deaths.
In Mala Rohan, east of the city of Kharkiv, the bodies of two Russian soldiers were dragged out of a well, and one soldier’s hands appeared to be tied, according to the report. Ivannikov claimed it was a sign the soldiers may have been punished for deserting.
Another body was found in the basement of a home in Mala Rohan. He appeared to be left alone when Russian forces retreated, and “most likely, he shot himself,” Ivannikov said.
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A report last week indicated that rather than treating wounded troops, Russian commanders were shooting and killing them on the battlefield. A video of captured Russian intelligence troops, made by a Ukrainian journalist, shows captured soldiers explaining how commanders “finished off their wounded.”
The bodies collected in Kharkiv will be taken on the refrigerated rail cars to Kyiv, where negotiations on prisoner exchanges take place.