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Liberated but still desperate: Freed from the Russian yoke, but left with nothing

The Ukrainian relief truck was surrounded by a crowd of desperate people in the town liberated from Russian rule just days before.

One tiny old lady cried out, “Please send me an aid package son, I have a walkingstick,” as others tried to help her.

Balakliya residents cheered on the sudden expulsion of Russian soldiers from their streets. They said that life is still difficult because there is no electricity, many buildings are destroyed and landmines in the surrounding fields.

A man with his face drawn said that a farm where cows were kept had been severely damaged by shelling over the past seven months of war. He said, “The cows were free to wander off but they are being killed by the mines.”

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Balakliya was taken by the Ukrainians as the first town to be retaken in their lightning advance through Kharkiv’s eastern region. It took place without any fanfare, on 6 September.

Hanna Maliar is Ukraine’s deputy defense minister. She stated that the counter-offensive had already reclaimed terrain equal in scale to greater London.



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She stated Ukraine would retake the entire region.

Sky News spoke to the minister on Tuesday as he stood in the town center, near a newly raised Ukrainian flag.

“It shows that the Ukrainian military is motivated, even though Russia still having a greater quantity of weapons.”

Image: Hanna Maliar is Ukraine’s deputy defense minister in Balakliya

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Ukrainian investigators have begun to collect evidence from the Ukrainian side of war crimes committed during the occupation, now that Russian forces are gone.

This incident occurred allegedly on the same day that the Ukrainian counter-offensive began.

Sergii Bolvinov was the chief investigator in Kharkiv. He said that two civilians were killed in their car by Russian soldiers at Balakliya’s checkpoint.


Bullet holes in body

“In the morning on 7 September, local people discovered the bodies and buried them here,” he stated, gesturing to a hole in the soil.

Since then, the bodies have been excavated and placed in body bags. They will now be examined for any forensic evidence.

The chief investigator stated that bullet holes were found in both bodies.

A total of five bodies have been discovered as part of war crime investigations, according to a separate official.

“But, believe me, this is not the ending. He told a large number of journalists that this was not the end of the story as part of a media facility organized by the Ukrainian authorities in Balakliya or a nearby village.



Eyewitness – Bodies left to rot, as people describe burying neighbors – life in a liberated village

Image There is no denying the effects of the war in Balakliya.

Since the beginning of the counter-offensive began, access to the frontline has been severely restricted. This makes it difficult to get a clear picture of what is going on.

Balaklyia’s police station is one of the alleged crime scene.

It was believed to have been used to torture individuals, according to investigators. According to the chief investigator, one man could have even been beat to death.


Unlit, windowless cells

According to him, up to 300 people were held in appalling conditions at the police station by Russian troops.

Five small, closet-like cells are unlit and without windows. One corridor is lined with a dingy, one-way hallway.

The chief investigator stated that prisoners were confined to rooms without toilet access. The chief investigator showed the locations where prisoners had marked the number of days they were held.

One was for 70 days, the other was for 32 days, and the third was for 26 days.

Image Russian prisoners had marked the passage of time on the walls of their cells

Another part of the station contained a room that the investigator claimed was used to torture prisoners using electric cables.

The police also discovered a larger room with a row of dirty chairs against one wall. This was a place for interrogation, they claimed.

According to the chief investigator, officers heard evidence that detainees were being beaten here.


Liberation

The Ukrainian forces began their assault on Balakliya in the early hours of the morning of September 6.

Local Verbivka residents reported that they saw Russian troops fleeing from their school, which was used as a military headquarters during occupation.

Later that day, a Russian missile crashed into the building and destroyed it.

Image After fleeing, the Russians attacked their former school with a missile strike.

On Tuesday, a crowd of local residents gathered near the ruins as Ukrainian officials led a large number of journalists into Balakliya.

“What about our grandchildren?” One woman cried. “We don’t have a school.”

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