war crimes in Ukraine

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In the Lviv region the remains uncovered of victims of the NKVD – KGB

19.04.2006    source:
Despite the fact that some of the victims were children, and several skulls bear bullet marks, the Prosecutor’s Office can find "no sign of a crime"

Human remains have been found in the churchyard of the St Josafat Church in Zhovkva, in the Lviv region.  According to preliminary reports, they are the remains of victims of the NKVD who were murdered in the 1950s.  Excavations are not, however, being carried out and the bones are still lying in the ground.

The Church of St Josafat is located directly opposite the Zhovkva District Administration. Recently during repair work in the former monastery yard human bones were discovered, which were scattered about, although there were some entire human remains.

Some of these remains were those of young boys and girls. Some of them were without limbs. Employees of the Zhovkva Reserve found coins in the ground from 1949, suggesting that the NKVD crimes were committed in the 1950s.

At the end of the 1940s and in the 1950s the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (the NKVD), renamed the KGB in 1954, was housed in local monasteries.

Its victims were Ukrainian patriots. How many victims lie buried in the churchyard is unknown. Only one square metre of the territory has been excavated. The Chancellor of the Sokolsky Eparchy of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Father Volodymyr Khotkevych, commented that the excavations were being undertaken by volunteers.

“We have informed the local authorities of our terrible discovery, yet nothing is being done. An investigation should be carried out”.

For more than 50 years the churchyard was the last resting place of former residents of Zhovkva. Employees of the historic reserve have found two bullet cases, and bullet marks on human remains.

Yet this has not prompted the local authorities to carry out excavations and exhumation. The Zhovkva District Prosecutor’s Office has not yet opened a criminal case since, according to the Deputy District Prosecutor, Volodymyr Havrylyuk, there are no signs of a crime.

“As far as I’m aware, a criminal case has not been started”

Nor did the Zhovkva District Prosecutor’s Office begin a criminal investigation into the discovery in 2002 in the crypt of the Monastery of Christ’s Birth of the remains of 225 people, among them 80 children. The youngest of the victims was 4 months old.

Several skulls had bullet marks, others were crushed. On the walls of the monastery crypt during the excavations I saw the remains of dried up blood.

The expert study carried out concluded that the people had been tortured. According to information from the expert commission, they were victims of the Soviet secret police.

The remains have been exhumed; however they have still not been buried: the local authorities say that they don’t have the money for this. Recently the bones were thrust into two bags.

The Bishop of the Sokolsky Eparchy, Mykhailo Kovtun, says that this lack of a Christian burial is a terrible sin for contemporaries.

“This remains a weight not only on those who were complicit in the crime, but on all of us: these are our people, they call on us to show respect and to honour their memory”.

If each resident of Zhovkva had contributed a few kopecks for the burial of their fellow citizens, there would already be a great cross standing in the town in memory of the innocent victims of Soviet times. However citizens look to the authorities, while the latter talk of lack of money and the prosecutor’s office of it’s not being within their jurisdiction. In short, everybody finds somebody else to point to, while the human remains continue to lie in the ground, to be moved from place to place like sacks of potatoes.

Halyna Tereshchuk, 18 April 2006

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