A DISTURBING picture shows bodies of slaughtered Russian soldiers laid out in a Z shape as brave Ukrainian forces drive Vladimir Putin’s troops out of Kharkiv.
Streets and fields surrounding the city are reportedly littered with bodies, with journalists describing the outskirts as an “open-air morgue”.
Kharkiv has suffered constant bombardment since the war began late in February – with many of the city’s one million terrified residents fleeing to safety.
One horrifying image appears to show four dead soldiers arranged in a Z shape – the symbol of Russia’s bloody invasion – in a village retaken by Ukrainian forces on Kharkiv’s outskirts.
According to Associated Press journalists, the dead soldiers were wearing white armbands commonly used by Russian fighters, while Russian medical kits were seen close to the bodies.
It could be considered a war crime.
The Z symbol has been spotted on the sides of Russian military vehicles throughout the war.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the “Z” symbol means “for the victory” and prevents Russian forces from attacking their own vehicles but also lets opposing forces identify them.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces uncovered a body inside an apartment where they had been taking shelter, as well as two in a burned-out vehicle as they retook a village near Kharkiv.
It comes as Russian troops began storming the steel mill that represented the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, Ukrainian defenders said, just as a convoy carrying scores of civilians evacuated from the plant over the weekend reached the relative safety of a Ukrainian-controlled city.
Osnat Lubrani, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said that thanks to the evacuation effort, 101 women, men, children and older persons could finally leave the bunkers below the Azovstal steelworks and see the daylight after two months.
The news for those left behind was more grim, however, as Ukrainian fighters said Russian forces started storming the sprawling plant, which includes a maze of tunnels and bunkers.
Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraines Azov Regiment, said the Russians were mounting a heavy assault with the support of armored vehicles and tanks, with attempts to land troops from boats and a large number of infantry.
The number of Ukrainian fighters holed up inside was unclear, but the Russians estimated the number at 2,000 weeks ago, and there were reports that 500 were wounded.
A few hundred civilians also remained there, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
He said that throughout the night, the plant was hit with naval artillery fire and airstrikes. Two civilian women were killed and 10 civilians were wounded, he said.
After failing to take Kyiv in the early weeks of the war, Russia withdrew from around the capital and announced that its chief objective was the capture of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.
But so far, Russias troops and their allied separatist forces appear to have made only minor gains in the eastern offensive.
They have only taken several small towns as they try to advance in relatively compact groups against staunch Ukrainian resistance.