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Former defense official says US should have highlighted Russia’s mass grave plans ahead of Ukraine invasion to rally support and build Kyiv’s ability to to defend oneself.
“I think [the administration] missed an opportunity to sound the alarm earlier and in a clearer way than they could have done in December, as opposed to the weeks immediately preceding the invasion,” James Anderson, former Deputy Under Secretary for advocacy for politics under President Donald Trump, Fox News Digital told Fox News Digital.
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Ukrainian officials said the bodies of 410 civilians were found in towns in the Kyiv region recaptured as Russian forces withdrew from the area last week. In Bucha alone, more than 100 civilians were found buried in mass graves, leading President Biden to seek a war crimes trial for Russia’s actions.
In December, Radio Free Europe first reported on Moscow’s plans to normalize wartime mass grave practices, but it wasn’t until last week that those plans took on a new light: standards apply to the “emergency burial” of fallen soldiers, with a specific size that could hold up to 1,000 bodies, as well as how to dispose of the bodies and how to cover them.
Some experts have argued that the size of mass graves “is only thinkable for a nuclear war or a pandemic”. Gary Kasparov, a former world chess champion and president of the Human Rights Foundation, called the normalization one of the “signposts on the road to the apocalypse”.
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The standards went into effect on February 1, 2022, just weeks before the invasion began, but residents in Russia heard about the standardization initiative “in the first days of December.”
Galya Morrell, a Russian and American citizen currently residing in the United States, told Fox News Digital that she had read discussions at the time about the new norms and how people were speculating about the range of reasons to take such a step at the time.
Morrell said most of the speculation has centered on conspiracy theories, such as graves being used to bury vaccinated people or cover up cases of Siberian anthrax. Others thought it was a case of corruption intended to redistribute the funeral market.
But Morrell saw it as a clear sign that Putin intended to go as far as necessary in Ukraine – including the use of weapons of mass destruction. Morrell said the standards noted that “bodies with a high radiation background would be buried in a specially designated area.”
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“For me, that was the last straw,” said Morrell, who was in Siberia at the time. “Looking at the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, I still had some hopes that this was just a tactical method of diplomacy, this time I thought that such losses, in which there might be necessary to dig mass graves for the civilian population, could only mean one thing: the use of weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical or nuclear.”
Anderson argued that it is difficult to draw a line between the mass graves initiative and “what we are seeing now in Ukraine”, and he reiterated the value of using it to raise greater resources for the Ukraine months in advance.
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“It might have provided — not that it might have deterred Putin from invading — but it might have given Ukraine more warning time to prepare for the invasion,” Anderson said. “It might have given Congress an added sense of urgency to get defensive weapons to Ukraine faster and in greater numbers.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.